IADC members Michael J. Wiggins, of McDonald Toole Wiggins, P.A. in Orlando, Florida (former IADC Trial Academy 2004/”Bruce’s Almighties”) and Michael L. O’Donnell, of Wheeler, Trigg and O’Donnell in Denver, Colorado, teamed up to obtain a complete defense verdict on August 24, 2016, for Michelin North America, Inc., in a highly watched product liability lawsuit in Florida state court (Dukes v. Michelin, et al, St. Lucie County Circuit Court, Florida). The case involved claims filed by three plaintiffs stemming from a SUV rollover accident in 2009 resulting in catastrophic brain injuries to two minor plaintiffs, ages 14 and 16, and injuries to the adult driver. In closing argument, the counsel for plaintiffs’ asked the jury to award in excess of $80 million in damages, making the verdict for defendants one of the largest wins for the product liability defense bar in 2016.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed Michelin’s tire contained six manufacturing defects and a design defect. Michelin’s defense team demonstrated throughout the nine-week trial that the tire was not defective and was not the cause of the Plaintiffs’ injuries. The case also highlighted the fact that Plaintiff had purchased the Michelin tire used and that it was damaged prior to the accident. The suit also claimed that Takata’s seat belt buckles unlatched during the rollover and allowed the teenagers to be ejected. The jury concluded in its verdict that the teens were not belted prior to the accident sequence.
“Michelin has a clear strategy to try more of these cases and defend the high-quality work of our engineers and our manufacturing processes,” said Michelin spokesperson, Tony Fouladpour. “Our legal team has worked closely with Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell and McDonald Toole Wiggins, and we commend both firms for their work in this case and continuing to be instrumental in helping Michelin implement this strategy nationwide.”