Heard January 23, 2014
Appeal from Charleston County. Appellate Case No. 2012-206187. Kristi Lea Harrington, Circuit Court Judge.
Thomas R. Goldstein, of Belk Cobb Infinger & Goldstein, PA, of North Charleston, for Petitioner.
C. Mitchell Brown, William C. Wood, Jr., and Michael J. Anzelmo, of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, of Columbia; and Carmelo B. Sammataro and David C. Marshall, of Turner Padget Graham & Laney, PA, of Columbia, for Respondent.
TOAL, C.J., PLEICONES, BEATTY and HEARN, JJ., concur.
[408 S.C. 365]
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
The court of appeals reversed a jury verdict awarding $41,000 in actual damages in a negligent design products liability action based on the failure of the trial court to grant a directed verdict. 5 Star, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 395 S.C. 392, 397, 718 S.E.2d 220, 223 (Ct. App. 2011). We granted certiorari and now reverse.
Petitioner 5 Star, Inc. is a lawn maintenance and pressure washing company owned by Stan Shelby. In February 2005, 5 Star purchased a used 1996 Ford F-250 pickup truck. Several months later, Shelby parked the truck for the weekend in 5 Star's North Charleston warehouse. Two days later, Shelby returned to the warehouse and discovered that a fire had occurred. The truck was destroyed, and the warehouse was severely damaged. Benjamin Norris, the Chief Fire Investigator for the North Charleston Fire Department, performed an investigation and observed that the truck was located in the middle of the warehouse, where the most extensive damage occurred. Chief Norris noted the engine compartment of the truck was the likely origin of the fire.
5 Star filed a products liability action against Ford Motor Co. for negligent design of the speed control deactivation switch (deactivation switch), seeking actual and punitive damages. In support of its claim, 5 Star relied on the testimony of Leonard Greene, an expert in electrical engineering and fire origin and cause. Greene testified the fire originated in the engine compartment and, due to numerous problems with the design of the deactivation switch, he further opined that the fire was caused by a malfunction in the deactivation switch. Specifically, in terms of the flawed design, Greene stated it was " very foreseeable" that the thin membrane separating ...