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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

No-evidence summary judgment to Kia, Autoliv in auto accident case affirmed


By Charmaine Little | Jul 24, 2018

HOUSTON – On July 12, the 14th Court of Appeals upheld a no-evidence summary judgment in a products liability case a consumer filed against Kia and airbag company Autoliv.

Lilian Garrick said the appeals court should reverse the summary judgment in favor of Kia Motors America Inc., Kia Motors Corp., Autoliv ASP Inc. and Autoliv Safety Technology Inc. While she said the defendants didn’t provide proper notice of the summary judgment hearing and pointed out she filed a response that provided evidence to each of the issues the defendants raised, the appeals court overruled Garrick’s challenge and confirmed the 458th District Court of Fort Bend County's decision. Justice Tracy Christopher authored the opinion.

Garrick filed the lawsuit against Kia and the Autoliv entities after her airbags allegedly didn’t deploy when she lost control of her car and collided with a pole. She also suffered injury from the crash. She said the crash happened because her steering locked and her car continued accelerating beyond her control. She sued over allegations of strict liability, negligence and breach of implied warranty and merchantability.

Kia and Autoliv filed motions for summary judgment while Garrick was searching for a new lawyer. She had been given 60 days to find new counsel after her original lawyer withdrew from the case.

At the summary judgment hearing, she said she still wasn’t able to secure new counsel. The trial court then denied her motion to rethink its ruling on the motion to withdraw and granted motions for summary judgment for Kia and Autoliv. Garrick then filed an appeal.

Garrick’s first argument was that Kia and Autoliv failed to give her proper notice of the summary judgment hearing. Regulation says she should have been given at least a 21-day notice unless it is served by mail. If it is served by mail, it has to be a 24-day notice. Kia gave Garrick a 23-day notice by mail, and Autoliv provided a 21-day notice by mail, meaning both notices were inadequate.  

Still, the appeals court pointed out Garrick requested more time because she couldn’t find a lawyer, not because of Autoliv and Kia’s notices. Another point is that Garrick asked for a six-month extension, not 24 days, which is what she was entitled to. Therefore, her extension isn’t directly related to Kia and Autoliv’s failure to give her proper notice. Considering this, the appeals court sided with the lower court on this issue and overruled Garrick’s argument.

Garrick’s second issue was concerning the defendants’ challenge to her evidence in the summary judgment. Garrick accused Kia and Autoliv of design defect, manufacturing defect and marketing defect. She also said Autoliv breached the standard of ordinary care and both Kia and Autoliv breached an implied warranty of merchantability. Both Kia and Autoliv said Garrick wasn’t able to provide proof to support any of her claims. The court also overruled this argument and supported the lower court’s no-evidence summary judgment for Kia and Autoliv.

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