Florida Wants To Allow Irrelevant Evidence In Automotive Defect Lawsuits
Here’s a hypothetical for you. Imagine that a guy is incredibly drunk – say twice the legal limit. He gets in his car to start it up, and as soon as he turns the key, a defectively-designed fuel pump ignites the gas tank. The car blows up, and kills him instantly. The exact same result would have happened to a sober person. Should the jury hear evidence that the guy was drunk? No. The reason why is that the driver’s intoxication has no bearing upon whether or not the fuel pump was defectively-designed.
At the behest of the auto industry, Florida is trying to pass a bill that will allow irrelevant evidence in automotive defect lawsuits:
The bill specifically boosts protections for automakers by allowing them to present more evidence when they are sued for product defects that result in enhanced injury following a crash. Florida is among a handful of states that consider a crash -- and any fault of the driver in that crash -- unrelated and irrelevant to injuries caused by defective parts or design.
In 2001, the Florida Supreme Court ruled against Ford, saying manufacturers could be held solely liable for design defects that enhanced the injury suffered in a crash, regardless of who was at fault in the crash itself.
The court's rationale for excluding evidence of the driver's fault in causing an accident is that the accident-causing fault is not relevant to whether an automobile manufacturer designed a defective product.
“Enhanced injury cases” are those in which a defectively designed part did not cause the crash, but increased the injuries sustained in the crash. And whether the driver was drunk, speeding, or otherwise driving irresponsibly shouldn’t be admissible in determining whether the part was defectively designed.
My prediction: This bill will easily pass, and will be described as bringing “fairness” and “common sense” back to the Florida tort system. It’s only January, but I’m confident this will be the worst year for the civil justice system since the bloodbath that was 1986-1987.