WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Maine couple shouldn’t receive $11 million from Mitsubishi Motors for the 2004 death of their son, the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled this week.
In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court threw out the 2008 jury verdict, saying Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Maass erred when she refused to let the car manufacturer show jurors charts, photos and video clips of the results of tests it conducted that disputed the theory that a faulty seat belt caused the death of 25-year-old Scott Laliberte.
The experts were allowed to tell the jury that the seat belt wasn’t a factor in the rollover accident on I-95 in Brevard County. However, the appeals judges said, that without the visual aids, the testimony was “barren and unsubstantiated.”
Appeals Court Judge Cory Ciklin disagreed with his colleagues — Judges Dorian Damoorgian and Melanie May. He said circuit judges routinely are forced to make such decisions and they shouldn’t be second-guessed.
“The trial court sensitively balanced the relevance of Mitsubishi’s demonstrative aids against the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion and made the right calls — or at least made the calls that were best performed by the person wearing the boots on the ground,” he wrote.
West Palm Beach attorney Julie Littky-Rubin, who represented Laliberte’s parents, Donna and Peter, said she plans to ask all 12 appeals judges to consider the case. Based on Ciklin’s dissent, she said she has a good chance of persuading the full court to overturn Damoorgian and May’s decision.
Wendy Lumish, who represented Mitsubishi, said she was pleased by the court ruling.
Littky-Rubin said she is confident she could again win the case if forced to retry it. However, she said, it would be hard on the Laliberte’s who have already waited nearly six years for justice.