On January 8, 2014, the Virginia Supreme Court issued Hyundai Motor Co., Ltd. v. Duncan, No. 140216, a special case of single-vehicle accident product liability for auto airbag design. Hyundai reversed a Pulaski County jury verdict for $14,140,000.00, finding Plaintiffs’ sole expert design defect opinion testimony inadmissible and therefore Defendant entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 1, 13.
Hyundai explained: “In short, Mahon’s opinion that the 2008 Tiburon was unreasonably dangerous was without sufficient evidentiary support because it was premised upon his assumption that the side airbag would have deployed if the sensor was at his proposed location – an assumption that clearly lacked a sufficient factual basis and disregarded the variables he acknowledged as bearing upon the sensor location determination.” Id. at 11. “Mahon’s opinion that the vehicle was unreasonably dangerous was based on his [impermissible] ipse dixit assumption that the side airbag would have deployed in Gage’s crash if the sensor had been located on the B-pillar [yet] the ‘analytical gap’ between the data Mahon relied upon from Hyundai’s location study and the opinion he proffered was ‘simply too great’.” Id.