Griffin v. Kandi Technologies, et al. – Go-Kart Product Liability Verdict Affirmed

Griffin v. Kandi Technologies, et al. – Go-Kart Product Liability Verdict Affirmed

The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District, Division Two, has affirmed trial court’s grant of summary judgment to certain defendants who sold an allegedly defective product, and to set aside a $40 million default judgment against the manufacturers.

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The case of Griffin v. Kandi Technologies, et al.arises from the tragic death of two men who were killed while riding a go-kart purchased that morning. An accident reconstruction report indicated the vehicle vaulted off a bump on the driveway, causing the front frame to strike the ground upon landing, and ejecting both men. The kart was traveling around 35-mph at the time, and neither man was wearing a helmet or seat belt.

Later analysis by an expert witness retained by the families revealed a castle nut in the lower suspension was not torqued according to specification, which would have had a negative impact on the handling and steering of the vehicle. The expert further opined it would have been simple to inspect and tighten the nut and cotter pin prior to delivery of the vehicle to its owner, one of the victims.

The families of the two men later filed wrongful death lawsuits against a number of defendants, including:

    • Companies responsible for the manufacture of the vehicle
    • Firms responsible for importing the vehicle
    • People and organizations who participated in the sale of the vehicle

The lawsuit alleged various theories of strict liability and negligence for the crash, and the subsequent legal proceedings were complex. Prior to trial, the court made two rulings, which were later the subject of the appeal:

    • A summary judgment was granted in favor of the store where the cart was sold and its owner;
    • A default judgment for $20 million to each of the two plaintiffs against the Chinese manufacturer of the vehicle was set aside on the grounds of improper service of notice.

A wrongful death trial commenced against the remaining defendants, and a jury sided against plaintiffs.On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the two pre-trial decisions, but both were affirmed by the appellate court. It was reasoned the store that sold the go-kart and its owner did not know or have reason to know of the alleged defects of the product. The mere action of ordering, stocking and selling a product, the court ruled, is not reason enough to expect the company to know it is dangerous.

Regarding the manufacturer, plaintiffs named as a defendant “Kandi Investments,” and notice of litigation was served on the owner of that company. This is the firm against which the $40 million default judgment was secured. However, the company filed a motion to set aside after noting the actual company that manufactured the product was “Kandi Vehicles,” and the registered agent upon whom notice of litigation would need to be served was someone else entirely. The trial court agreed, and set aside the judgment. On appeal, the appellate court deemed this to be the proper decision.

Whether plaintiffs can still recover damages from the manufacturer will depend on a number of factors, including whether the court would allow the statute of limitations in this product liability case to be tolled. The accident occurred in 2006 and the Missouri statute of limitations on wrongful death cases is three years. Sometimes exceptions are made when there is evidence plaintiff did not know and could not have learned defendant’s identity prior to that time, but that will be something plaintiff lawyers will need to carefully examine before pursuing additional litigation.

Additional Resources:
Griffin v. Kandi Technologies, et al., Dec. 31, 2014, Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District, Division Two

More Blog Entries:
Donahue v. Ledgends, Inc. – Waivers Don’t Offer Limitless Release of Liability, Aug. 15, 2014, St. Louis Injury Lawyer Blog

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri. We help people who have been injured in all types of accidents—including car or truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and much more. Whether your injury is something that can cause long-term issues like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or it is something you’ll likely make a full recovery from, we are here to help.

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