In a prepared statement, DaimlerChrysler assistant general counsel Steven Hantler said the ruling "restores common sense and basic fairness in cases alleging product defects."
Flury was alone in the vehicle on Nov. 9, 1996, when he fell asleep at the wheel. The pickup left the road, sideswiped a pole and struck a tree, according to the court. He was wearing his seat belt but alleged in the lawsuit that the airbag's failure to deploy made his injuries worse.
Flury was diagnosed with lumbar strain five days after the accident. He visited a doctor four times and went back to work.
A couple of weeks after the accident, on Nov. 22, Flury's lawyer notified DaimlerChrysler by letter of the accident, stating that the airbag's failure to deploy caused the plaintiff to sustain enhanced injuries.
The letter also told the automaker not to contact Flury directly.
The pickup was held for about a month at a body shop, then taken to Flury's parents' home and later sold by his insurer for salvage.
In a Jan. 3, 1997, letter, DaimlerChrysler asked the lawyer, Richard Phillips of Ludowici, Ga., about the truck's location so that it could be inspected, but Phillips never responded, the court said.
The court also said that, according to testimony in the lower-court suit, Flury didn't know where the truck was after the insurer removed it.
In 2000, according to testimony, Flury visited an emergency room for back pain that he claims started while he was lifting a tire. In 2002, he had surgery for a herniated disk.
On Dec. 23, 2002, Flury filed a lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler alleging that the airbag's failure to deploy caused him greater injuries than he would have received if it had deployed.
In the lawsuit, DaimlerChrysler denied any defect and contended the airbag didn't deploy because the impact was below the threshold speed that would have triggered deployment.
A jury awarded Flury $250,000 on June 30, 2004. But DaimlerChrysler appealed, arguing that it had been irreparably prejudiced by its inability to inspect the vehicle.