Udac v. Takata, Corp. (Hawaii Court of Appeals)
The plaintiff alleged that the seatbelt buckle in his vehicle was defective and released during an accident, causing him to be ejected from the vehicle and paralyzed. The jury awarded $4.5 million in compensatory damages and $12.5 million in punitive damages. We convinced the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals to order a new trial based on the exclusion of a defense expert’s study suggesting that the plaintiff was not wearing his seatbelt. The court also granted the defendant judgment on punitive damages based on insufficiency of the evidence. It found that a later patent application for a redesigned buckle, a later change in the regulatory test for buckle safety, and a prior case alleging that the buckle released were not enough to establish that the manufacturer acted recklessly. We successfully opposed the plaintiff’s petition for certiorari to the Hawaii Supreme Court.