DETROIT - After only 43 minutes of deliberations, a Wayne County (Mich.) Circuit Court jury rejected a rollover-related product liability suit claiming that the right rear axle of a 1994 Chevrolet S10 Blazer was defectively manufactured.
The suit against General Motors was filed by Janet Butcher, the injured driver of the Blazer, which rolled over after being struck in the right rear by a Mercury Capri. She was alone in the vehicle.
The other driver was not sued.
Butcher's suit against GM alleged that the axle was brittle, possibly due to improper heat treatment, and broke after impact with the other car, according to defense lawyer Elaine Wright of Detroit. Butcher's expert testified that the axle probably cracked during shipment from the assembly plant.
GM successfully defended the case at a May trial before Judge Robert Colombo Jr. The automaker's experts testified that the axle met GM specifications for size and hardness and fractured due to 'severe forces to the right rear wheel during multiple impacts with the Capri and the pavement during the accident,' Wright said.
The company offered evidence that the axle shaft was bent during the crash.
'Physical evidence on the Blazer wheel, brake, axle assembly, suspension and underbody were evidence of multiple, severe side loading on the axle during the accident,' she said.
A pretrial mediation recommended GM pay $750,000 in damages, but the company chose to go to trial instead.
Butcher and her husband asked for $1.5 million in damages. Butcher's lawyer, Thomas McGuire of Huntington Woods, Mich., said he did not know whether there will be an appeal.