The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied Hyundai Motor Company’s petition for review of a $38.1 million verdict in the Vanderventer v. Hyundai Motor product liability case. On October 26, 2022, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals also affirmed the Racine County Circuit Court’s decision dismissing Hyundai’s appeal.
Lead attorney Timothy Trecek, assisted by attorneys Jesse B. Blocher, Elissa M. Bowlin and Susan Tyndall, as well as staff members Ken A. Jarvis, Mary G. Brennan and Kevin M. Hood, represented Edward Vanderventer, whose 2013 Hyundai Elantra was rear-ended on July 31st 2015.
Mr. Vanderventer suffered significant injuries, including a spinal fracture and paraplegia. On behalf of Mr. Vanderventer and his wife, Attorney Trecek made the case that a defect within the front seat headrest and seatback caused Mr. Vanderventer’s injuries, and that absent the defect, Mr. Vanderventer would have walked away from the accident. Hyundai denied liability and argued that the injuries were a result of the collision and/or a degenerative spine condition known as diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH).
During the 18-day trial in 2020, jurors heard testimony from over 25 witnesses, including seat design and medical experts. In valuing the Vanderventers’ damages at $38.1 million, the jury found that Hyundai’s defective seat design was 84% responsible for causing Mr. Vanderventer’s injuries.
Hyundai appealed the Circuit Court verdict to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals ruled in October 2022 that the evidentiary issues raised by Hyundai did not provide sufficient cause to disturb the jury’s verdict. This week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied further review, thereby putting an end to the litigation nearly eight years after the crash.
Hyundai will now owe the original judgment amount and interest from the day of the verdict. This is Wisconsin’s largest single plaintiff compensatory verdict in the state’s history and Wisconsin’s largest compensatory verdict for the spouse of an injured plaintiff.
“That neither the Court of Appeals nor the Wisconsin Supreme Court altered the verdict rendered by 12 Racine County jurors, affirms that their decision was supported by the evidence presented. It also affirms the reasoned decisions made by Circuit Court Judge Gasiorkiewicz throughout the trial. The Vanderventers will now get the just compensation they deserve,” said Trecek.