David Marshall Secures Judgment

David Marshall secured judgment in favor of an automobile manufacturer on appeal. The Plaintiff alleged the speed control deactivation switch of its unattended truck malfunctioned and caused a fire in its warehouse over a long weekend.   There were no injuries, but the fire destroyed the truck, the building, and several pieces of equipment.  After the fire, the owner cleaned the scene and disposed of the truck without providing notice to the manufacturer.  Several months later, the manufacturer issued a recall for the vehicle due to a concern that the switch could overheat and potentially cause a fire.  The Plaintiff sued the manufacturer under a negligent design defect theory, and the jury returned a verdict for the Plaintiff.  We argued the case should have been dismissed based on the Plaintiff’s admitted spoliation of evidence, which prevented the Plaintiff from satisfying its burden of proof and the manufacturer from presenting any defense.  The South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the jury’s verdict and entered judgment for the manufacturer based upon the lack of evidence of negligent conduct at the time the truck was manufactured and sold.  Due to the sheer lack of any evidence of this critical element of proof, which alone was enough to warrant reversal, the court did not address the merits of the spoliation argument.  

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