Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., No. CivA. 2:96-1269-11.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtHawkins
Citation74 F.Supp.2d 548
PartiesSergio JIMENEZ, as Personal Representative of the Estate of the Late Sergio Hernandez Jimenez, II, Plaintiff, v. CHRYSLER CORPORATION, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. CivA. 2:96-1269-11.
Decision Date02 December 1999
74 F.Supp.2d 548
Sergio JIMENEZ, as Personal Representative of the Estate of the Late Sergio Hernandez Jimenez, II, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRYSLER CORPORATION, Defendant.
No. CivA. 2:96-1269-11.
United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division.
December 2, 1999.

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Reese Irby Joye, Mark Christopher Joye, Joye Law Firm, N. Charleston, SC, John R. Gerstein, Ross Dixson & Masback, Washington, DC, David R. Dwares, Ross Dixon & Masback, Washington, DC, for Sergio Jimenez, plaintiff.

Wade H. Logan, III, Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough LLP, Charleston, SC, Mia Lauren Maness, Mark C. Tanenbaum PA, Charleston, SC, Glenda L. Laws, Yates, McLamb and Weyher, L.L.P., Raleigh, NC, Eric R. Miller, Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly, Minneapolis, MN, David Tyrrell, Hill, Ward & Henderson, Tampa, FL, for Chrysler Corporation, defendant.

ORDER

HAWKINS, Senior District Judge.


This matter is before the court on defendant's motions for judgment as a matter of law and for new trial absolute, or, in the alternative, new trial nisi remittitur. This case was tried before a jury from September 11, 1997 through October 8, 1997. The jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff's favor. This court entered judgment on October 9, 1997. Defendant timely moved for judgment as a matter of law and for new trial and Plaintiff opposed the motions.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This products liability case was tried on plaintiff's complaint, alleging that the liftgate latch in the Jimenez family's 1985 Dodge Caravan minivan was defective and unreasonably dangerous. (Compl. ¶ 18) As a result of the defective design, plaintiff claims that the latch failed, allowing the liftgate to open in a rollover accident on April 10, 1994. (Compl. ¶¶ 13 and 14) During the rollover, Plaintiff's son, Sergio Hernandez Jimenez, II ("Sergio"), was ejected from the minivan through the open rear door and killed. (Compl. ¶ 18).

Plaintiff's claims originally included strict liability, breach of implied warranty, negligent misrepresentation, unfair and deceptive trade practices and negligence. At trial, the plaintiff presented his case on theories of strict liability, negligent

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misrepresentation and negligent design. Following arguments of counsel and the instructions of this court, the case was submitted to the jury, and the jury returned with a verdict in Plaintiff's favor for Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars in actual damages and Two Hundred Fifty Million Dollars punitive damages.

II. DEFENDANT'S RULE 50 MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

Defendant Chrysler Corporation ("Chrysler") moves for judgment as a matter of law based upon various alleged failings of plaintiff's case. Only two of these alleged deficiencies were addressed in the defendant's memorandum in support of the Motion. Specifically, Chrysler argues that 1) Plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence of negligent misrepresentation, and 2) Plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to support an award of punitive damages.

A. Standard under Rule 50

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b) allows this court to grant a party judgment as a matter of law even after a jury has rendered its verdict. Under Rule 50(a), a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is simply a renewed post-trial motion for a judgment as a matter of law. Such motion should be granted when "there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue," Rule 50(a)(1), FRCP. When ruling on a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a court should not weigh the evidence or appraise the credibility of the witnesses, but must view all the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all legitimate inferences in his favor. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. v. L & L Wings, Inc., 962 F.2d 316, 318 (4th Cir.1992), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 872, 113 S.Ct. 206, 121 L.Ed.2d 147 (1992). Judgment as a matter of law may be granted only when there is no substantial evidence to support recovery by the party against whom the motion is directed. Mattison v. Dallas Carrier Corp., 947 F.2d 95, 100 (4th Cir.1991).

B. Plaintiff's Negligent Misrepresentation Claim

Defendant argues that Plaintiff failed to present evidence to support the jury's finding of liability on negligent misrepresentation. According to Chrysler, Plaintiff did not establish that Chrysler made any false representation to Plaintiff, that there was reliance upon any particular representation because any advertisements viewed merely offered opinion, or that Plaintiff suffered any pecuniary loss.

This court finds that Chrysler failed to raise the issues regarding any false representation, opinion or pecuniary loss in its Rule 50(a) motion at trial. While Chrysler did recite what it contended were the elements of negligent misrepresentation, no reference to "false representation," "opinion," or "pecuniary loss," were made. Rather, Chrysler specifically argued only regarding its contention that Plaintiff Jimenez had failed to prove reliance and proximate causation.

Because Chrysler failed to object at trial, it is barred from raising these issues in the first instance in its Rule 50(b) motion. See Price v. City of Charlotte, N.C., 93 F.3d 1241, 1248-49 (4th Cir.1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1116, 117 S.Ct. 1246, 137 L.Ed.2d 328 (1997) (holding that a party must assert the same reasons in its Rule 50(b) motion as advanced in its Rule 50(a) motion); see e.g. Whelan v. Abell, 48 F.3d 1247, 1251 (D.C.Cir.1995) ("[T]he precise claim made in the motion [under Rule 50(b)] must have been made [under Rule 50(a)]."); Kutner Buick, Inc. v. American Motors Corp., 868 F.2d 614, 617 (3d Cir. 1989) (Judgment as a matter of law made post trial must advance the same issues interposed when the Rule 50 motion was first made.). Therefore, Chrysler is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on

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the negligent misrepresentation claim on those issues not raised at trial: making a false representation, opinion, and pecuniary loss.

With regard to proof of reliance and proximate causation, this court finds that Plaintiff proved not only that the representation of safety was relied upon, but also that the omission of information was relied upon. Further there was evidence presented from which the jury could have reasonably found that such reliance was a proximate cause of Plaintiff's damages.

"As a general rule, a person who undertakes to make a representation is liable for negligent misrepresentation if a plaintiff suffers physical injury from reliance upon the misrepresentation." F.P. Hubbard & R.L. Felix, The South Carolina Law of Torts, p. 357 (2d ed.1997). The South Carolina Supreme Court has stated:

`A duty to exercise reasonable care in giving information exists when the defendant has a pecuniary interest in the transaction.' `The recovery of damages may be predicated upon a negligently made false statement where a party suffers either injury or loss as a consequence of relying upon the misrepresentation.' These general rules have been applied ... to support the recognition of a negligent misrepresentation claim where the misrepresented fact(s) induced the plaintiff to enter a contract or business transaction.

Evans v. Rite Aid Corp., 324 S.C. 269, 478 S.E.2d 846, 848 (1996), quoting Gilliland v. Elmwood Properties, 301 S.C. 295, 391 S.E.2d 577, 580 (1990) (citations omitted).

According to Chrysler, there is no evidence demonstrating that the Jimenez family relied on any misrepresentations. South Carolina has adopted the Second Restatement view for analyzing the reliance element in a negligent misrepresentation claim. See ML-Lee Aquisition Fund, L.P. v. Deloitte & Touche, 327 S.C. 238, 489 S.E.2d 470, 472 (1997). According to the Second Restatement, direct reliance by a particular plaintiff is not required. Chrysler's "supply[ing] the information for repetition to a certain group or class of person [of which Mr. Jimenez] is one, even though [Chrysler] never had heard of [Mr. Jimenez] by name when the information was given" is sufficient for imposing liability. See Restatement (Second) Torts § 552 cmt. h (1977).

In this case, Ms. Barrientos, Sergio's mother, testified that she saw commercials that led her to believe that Chrysler minivans were safe vehicles. (Tr. 1072) Robert Eaton, Chrysler's CEO, testified that consumers "absolutely" have "a right to expect" safe vehicles from Chrysler. (Deposition of Robert Eaton, at 44.1) The jury reasonably could infer from this evidence that the Jimenez family would not have bought their minivan had Chrysler not misrepresented the vehicle as safe. Moreover, Ms. Barrientos' reliance on Chrysler's silence regarding the latch was demonstrated by her utilizing the minivan in ignorance of the non-disclosed defect, believing it to be safe and suitable to transport her children, allowing her son to sit in the third seat (by the rear door), and not seeking to have a headed striker installed, unknowing of its importance or availability.

Assuming arguendo, that Chrysler preserved the issues of "false representation," "opinion," or "pecuniary loss," for consideration by this court post-trial, the court still concludes that judgment as a matter of law as to Plaintiff's claim of negligent misrepresentation is inappropriate. Even disregarding Chrysler's procedural default, it cannot succeed on the merits.

As to false representation, Chrysler argues that it made no representation to Plaintiff and that any representation allegedly made was not false, essentially contending

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that a misrepresentation must be an affirmative misstatement. This contention is contrary to the evidence and to well-settled South Carolina law. At trial, it was unrebutted that Chrysler touted the safety of all its minivans in advertising. Eaton testified...

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14 practice notes
  • Aken v. PLAINS ELEC. GENERATION & TRANS., No. 26,730.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • June 4, 2002
    ...of the punitive damages award." BMW of N. Am., Inc. v. Gore, 701 So.2d 507, 514 (Ala.1997) (quoted in Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., 74 F.Supp.2d 548, 584 (D.S.C.1999)); see also United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Midland Fumigant, Inc., 205 F.3d 1219, 1231 (10th Cir.2000) (holding punitive damages awa......
  • Hurd v. U.S., No. CIV. A. 2:99-0240-18.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • March 8, 2001
    ...million for the death of a six-year old child, which was later reduced by Judge Hawkins to $9 million. See Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., 74 F.Supp.2d 548, 575, 578 (D.S.C.1999). It is impossible for this court to distinguish the grief, pain, and sorrow sustained by the Hurds and Mrs. Cornett f......
  • D'AMARIO v. Ford Motor Co., No. SC95881
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • November 21, 2001
    ...automobile manufacturers for secondary injuries caused by a design defect. The federal district court in Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., 74 F.Supp.2d 548 (D.S.C.1999), reversed in part and vacated, 269 F.3d 439 (4th Cir. 2001), explained the essential rationale of the minority The crashworthines......
  • Donze v. Gen. Motors, LLC, Appellate Case No. 2016-001437
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 17, 2017
    ...interpretation of the crashworthiness doctrine. See Andrews , 796 P.2d at 1095 ; Green , 709 A.2d at 212 ; Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp. , 74 F.Supp.2d 548 (D.S.C. 1999), affirmed on this issue and reversed on separate grounds by Jimenez v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. , 269 F.3d 439 (4th Cir. 2001) [......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Aken v. PLAINS ELEC. GENERATION & TRANS., No. 26,730.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • June 4, 2002
    ...of the punitive damages award." BMW of N. Am., Inc. v. Gore, 701 So.2d 507, 514 (Ala.1997) (quoted in Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., 74 F.Supp.2d 548, 584 (D.S.C.1999)); see also United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Midland Fumigant, Inc., 205 F.3d 1219, 1231 (10th Cir.2000) (holding punitive damages awa......
  • Hurd v. U.S., No. CIV. A. 2:99-0240-18.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • March 8, 2001
    ...million for the death of a six-year old child, which was later reduced by Judge Hawkins to $9 million. See Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., 74 F.Supp.2d 548, 575, 578 (D.S.C.1999). It is impossible for this court to distinguish the grief, pain, and sorrow sustained by the Hurds and Mrs. Cornett f......
  • D'AMARIO v. Ford Motor Co., No. SC95881
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • November 21, 2001
    ...automobile manufacturers for secondary injuries caused by a design defect. The federal district court in Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp., 74 F.Supp.2d 548 (D.S.C.1999), reversed in part and vacated, 269 F.3d 439 (4th Cir. 2001), explained the essential rationale of the minority The crashworthines......
  • Donze v. Gen. Motors, LLC, Appellate Case No. 2016-001437
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 17, 2017
    ...interpretation of the crashworthiness doctrine. See Andrews , 796 P.2d at 1095 ; Green , 709 A.2d at 212 ; Jimenez v. Chrysler Corp. , 74 F.Supp.2d 548 (D.S.C. 1999), affirmed on this issue and reversed on separate grounds by Jimenez v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. , 269 F.3d 439 (4th Cir. 2001) [......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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