Virginia: Wrongful Death – A Lawyer’s Fire

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On October 25, 2016, by unpublished per curiam opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the $2,500,000.00 jury award in the wrongful death appeal of Bilenky v. Ryobi Techs, Inc., No. 15-1753, *3,13 (4th Cir. Nov. 23, 2016). Specifically, the Fourth Circuit affirmed denial of defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at Norfolk, No. 2:13-cv-00345-RAJ-DEM. Id. at 3.

First, Bilenky found that Ryobi waived its “nonliability theory” under the “apparent manufacturer doctrine” (for having been outside the distribution chain of the product bearing its name), by failing to request a jury instruction re the same. Id. at 11. Second, Bilenky found “no inadequacy of the evidence” on “defect and causation,” adopting the “cogent reasoning spelled out by the district court in its Opinion”. Id. at 12.

Finally, Bilenky found no reversible error re Ryobi’s contentions that the district judge “improperly struck two of Ryobi’s contributory negligence defenses, applied an incorrect standard for discovery sanctions, and wrongly allowed Bilenky to introduce prejudice evidence.” Id. at 8 n.3. In Bilenky, Plaintiff’s 88 year-old deceased burned to death in his backyard in front of his wife after the Ryobi tractor he was operating exploded and engulfed him in intensifying flames and smoke. Id. at 4.