MADISON, Wis.—The Wisconsin Supreme Court has restored a $6.8 million verdict against tire maker Continental A.G. in a product liability case.
Christine Morden, now 50, a Milwaukee day-care center operator, was vacationing in Florida with her husband and four children in March 1991. Ms. Morden was driving over the speed limit and changing lanes when the family's Volkswagen Vanagon hit a bump.
The Continental snow tires on the van's rear axle failed, and it swerved off the road and into a ditch. Ms. Morden suffered severe spinal cord injuries which rendered her quadriplegic.
The Morden family sued Continental, claiming the company was negligent in its product testing of the tires. A state trial court awarded the Mordens $12 million, which was reduced to $6.8 million because the jury found Ms. Morden liable for 50-percent contributory negligence. But a court of appeals overturned that verdict in April 1999, ruling the plaintiffs had not proved their case against Conti.
In a unanimous decision June 16, the state Supreme Court reversed the appeals court. The high court said the evidence in the first trial was sufficient to support the jury's finding of fault against Conti.
The Mordens are "relieved" but not overjoyed at the Supreme Court ruling, said Robert Slattery, the Waukesha, Wis., attorney who represents the family. Because of Christine Morden's medical bills and the length of the legal process, he said, the family was on the verge of bankruptcy before the high court's verdict.
"They were facing the need to sell their house and move into a trailer," Mr. Slattery said. "This was the third house they would lose."
Mr. Slattery doubted whether Conti would appeal, since the only court left is the U.S. Supreme Court and the Morden case lacks a federal issue. "This (the Wisconsin Supreme Court) was the court of last resort," he said.
Continental officials could not be reached for comment.