Judgment Affirmed in Land Rover Rollover Case

Mr. Pannu was seriously injured when his Land Rover Discovery (Series 1) sport utility vehicle rolled over following a chain of collisions.  Pannu alleged a design defect in the SUV and was awarded a judgment of $21,654,000.

The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, affirmed the judgment last week.  Read the opinion in Pannu v. Land Rover North America, Inc., B218173 (Cal. Ct. App. 1/19/11) here.

The opinion is of interest to Tennessee lawyers who are interested in products liability cases because (a) it identifies several experts for the plaintiff who offer opinion testimony in rollover cases; (b) identifies the issues one confronts in a "typical" rollover case, (c) has some interesting comments on the opinions of Lee Carr, a frequent expert for the defense in motor vehicle products cases;  (d) identifies and discusses the opinions of several other defense experts one is likely to see in these cases; (e) discusses the application of the consumer expectation test (which we also have in Tennessee) to auto defect cases; and (f) discusses the application of the risk-benefit test (which we also have in Tennessee) to the facts.

Importantly, the opinion also discusses the award of economic damages and discusses the differences between lost profits and loss of earning capacity as person running numerous small businesses.    Plaintiff owned and actively managed several small businesses and was unable to do so after the wreck.  Damages for lost profits are not generally admissible in personal injury cases, but the plaintiff’s lawyers approached the issue in a way the permitted the plaintiff to recover damages for his loss of ability to serve as a "franchise owner/ vice president."  An award of $11,654,000 in economic damages was sustained.  The court commented that "Land Rover’s argument [against the damages for loss of earning capacity] is predicated on a distortion of the record."

It is difficult keeping up with changes in the law where you customarily practice.  The value of opinions from other states, however, is that we can benefit from the research and imagination of our fellow lawyers and use their hard work to benefit our clients.  I will continue to look for out-of-state opinions that I believe might be of assistance to my fellow Tennessee lawyers.