Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding The Verdict Obtained for Automotive Client in Action Seeking Recovery of Settlement

This successful Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV) follows a jury trial in August of 2019 where our client was held 50% at fault for the sale of a part that injured plaintiff in the case of Dylan Donnelly v. Eastwood Garage.

Following a 10-figure settlement with an injured and paralyzed Plaintiff, our client’s parts supplier pursued a cross-action against our client to try to recover the settlement from our automotive retailer client. The parts supplier’s insurance carrier paid to fund the settlement. Our client was an additional insured on the parts supplier’s insurance policy. Our client was also named in the settlement agreement.

The court bifurcated the jury trial that was conducted in San Bernardino Superior Court in August of 2019. The court ordered that the first phase would establish liability only and that the remainder of the case would be dealt with post-trial. The jury found our client to be 50% at fault for the sale of the part that allegedly injured Plaintiff. We argued that (1) the cross-complainant had no damages to pursue at trial, (2) there was no expert testimony to establish causation supporting cross-complainant’s allegations against our client, and (3) the insurance company was effectively improperly attempting to sue its own insured.

The cross-complainant survived motions in limine, a motion for good faith settlement, and motions for nonsuit and directed verdict. After trial, the cross-complainant supplier’s insurance carrier substituted into the case as a named party in place of the supplier and continued to seek recovery from our client. The court then deprived our client of its right to a jury trial on its own cross-complaint for express indemnity. Ultimately, judgment was entered in favor of the insurance carrier and against our client for one-half (50%) of the settlement.

As a side note, this trial also provided some levity. A juror was excused during deliberations for improper conduct. Alternate Number 1 was called by the clerk to come into court early one morning. After the clerk hung up the phone, the judge asked the clerk when could we expect arrival of the alternate juror. Her response: “He won’t be here. He’s drunk.”

Our client moved for a new trial and for JNOV. The court ruled in our client’s favor, finding that the jury did not have sufficient evidence to support its finding that our client’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing Plaintiff’s harm.

September 2020