A California jury has cleared BMW of North America in a product liability suit alleging placement of the gas tank of a 1982 BMW 528e behind the rear axle constituted a design defect.
Instead, the jury in Alameda County Superior Court found the drivers of the BMW and a Lincoln Continental Mark V that rear-ended it fully responsible for the fiery crash that severely injured Jennifer Yue, a passenger in the BMW.
The jury ordered the two drivers to pay Yue $1,955,000, including about $1 million for past medical expenses.
'Ultimately the jury was able to recognize that BMW and its gas tank design were not responsible,' said San Francisco attorney Timothy Smith.
Yue has filed a motion for a new trial, said her attorney, Stephen Walwyn of San Jose.
According to trial testimony, the BMW was traveling at less than 30 mph while crossing from the center median of an interstate to the right-hand shoulder to fix a flat tire. A pickup grazed the BMW, which was then rear-ended by the Lincoln at 50 to 70 mph. Both the Lincoln and the BMW caught fire in the post-collision fuel-fed fire.
At the end of a five-week trial, the jury attributed 25 percent of the fault to the BMW driver, 75 percent to the Lincoln driver and nothing to BMW. The driver of the pickup was not sued.
Yue's lawyer, Walwyn, said he still feels the BMW was defective with its gas tank 'in what was intended to be a crush zone and projecting below the bumper.'
He also said his client is unlikely to collect the full judgment from the two drivers, one of whom has filed for bankruptcy, and their insurance companies.