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Benedict v. Hankook Tire Company Limited

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

July 9, 2018

ROBERT BENEDICT, Plaintiff,
v.
HANKOOK TIRE COMPANY LIMITED, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT E. PAYNE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on HANKOOK TIRE COMPANY LIMITED'S AND HANKOOK TIRE AMERICA CORPORATION' S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL (ECF No. 458). The motion will be denied in part and granted in part.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Procedural Context

         In this products liability action, Robert Benedict sued Hankook Tire Company Limited ("HTCL") and Hankook Tire America Corporation (“HTAC") for the production and distribution of an allegedly defective tire. HTCL and HTAC are herein referred to collectively as "Defendants" because, throughout the proceedings, the parties have done so.

         Although Benedict initially pursued several theories of liability, at trial, he pursued only a negligent manufacturing claim against Defendants. See Third Am. Compl. 4-5. A jury trial was held from March 5, 2018 to March 9, 2018, and the jury returned a verdict for Benedict of $37, 835, 259.23. Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law during trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). Trial Tr. 426-28. Defendants now seek judgment as a matter of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) or, alternatively, a new trial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59.

         II. Factual Context

         A. Stipulated Facts

         The following recitation of facts stems from the parties' factual stipulations, which were entered into evidence as an exhibit and read to the jury at trial. Trial Tr. 420-21, 425.

         This case involves the ''November 14, 2014 rollover of a 2007 Kenworth cement truck being operated by" Benedict for his employer, Essex Concrete. Trial Tr. 421-23. While driving on Route 288 in Chesterfield County, the front right tire (the "subject tire") of the truck suffered a tread separation and "completely deflated." See Trial Tr. 421, 423. "The cement truck continued in the right lane for approximately 40 feet before traveling over the white fog line, off the right shoulder, up an embankment, and rolled over." Trial Tr. 423.

         As a result of those events, Benedict sustained injuries that "prevent him from ambulating and make him dependent on others for assistance to perform his activities of daily living." See Trial Tr. 424. Benedict "was treated for his injuries at [the Medical College of Virginia] from November 14, 2014 until December 19, 2014; treated at Vibra Hospital from December 19 until January 26, 2015; and treated at Virginia Commonwealth University Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation from January 26, 2015 until March 20, 2015. Mr. Benedict was discharged and returned home on March 20, 2015." Trial Tr. 424. His medical bills totaled $2, 049, 675.23. See Trial Tr. 425; PL's Ex. 27.

         The subject tire "was a Hankook Aurora THO8, size 425/65R22.5 medium truck tire that was designed by [HTCL] and manufactured at Hankook's Daejeon South Korea manufacturing plant during the week of November 20, 2005." Trial Tr. 421-22. "After being manufactured, the subject tire was shipped to [HTAC] for distribution in the United States." Trial Tr. 422. The subject tire was sold by Old Dominion Tire to Metro Ready Mix. Trial Tr. 422. "In May 2014, Metro Ready Mix sold its assets, including the cement truck" to Essex. Trial Tr. 422. Before that, "the subject tire was removed from an unknown cement truck on an unknown date and installed on the cement truck involved in the November 14, 2014 accident." Trial Tr. 422. After the accident, the subject tire "remained[ed] mounted on the cement truck [which was kept in a storage yard] for approximately one year." Trial Tr. 424. "Between December 5, 2015 and the present, the subject tire has been maintained in a storage unit in Miami, Florida." Trial Tr. 424.

         B. Overview of Liability Evidence

         1. Plaintiff's Evidence

         To prove his liability theory, Benedict offered the testimony of HTCL officers and employees, documents produced by HTCL, testimony of eyewitnesses to the accident, the subject tire, and expert testimony. He relied most heavily, however, on the expert testimony of David Southwell, and it is that testimony that drives the motions under consideration.

         i. David Southwell & His Experience David

         Southwell was accepted as an expert "forensic tire engineer., Trial Tr. 114; see also Benedict v. Hankook Tire Co. Ltd., 290 F.Supp.3d 488, 497-507 (E.D. Va. 2018) (ECF No. 342). Southwell is "an independent tire engineering consultant and failure analyst" and possesses, inter alia, a Master's degree in engineering and a wealth of professional experience in the tire failure analysis field. See Trial Tr. 105-114. Southwell spent "nearly 13 years with Bridgestone Australia" in a variety of roles that required him to understand how and why tires fail, including by analyzing and inspecting failed tires, and he received specific training in that regard. See Trial Tr. 106-07, 111-13. After that, Southwell "went into business for [him]self," "selling and servicing tires of all types" while also "consult[ing] on tire failures" to diverse groups. See Trial Tr. 107-08. Southwell then joined Bridgestone Corporation in Thailand for three years, training "other Bridgestone engineers and other Bridgestone employees from around the Asia Pacific region ... .in all of the tire technical aspects and failure analysis techniques" he had learned in Australia. Trial Tr. 108-09, 113. Next, he worked for South Pacific Tires, "the manufacturer of Dunlop and Goodyear tires in Australia," in a role that required him to "oversee and coordinate the new product development process for Australia." Trial Tr. 108. Since 2005, Southwell has been an independent consultant for "police, crash investigators, insurance companies, [and] attorneys." Trial Tr. 108. Southwell estimated that, over the course of his career, he has inspected over 15, 000 failed truck tires to determine the cause of failure. Trial Tr. 113-14.

         ii. The Defect Theories

         Upon examination of the subject tire, Southwell "found two manufacturing defects which together . . . caused the [subject] tire to fail in service suddenly." Trial Tr. 115, 133. "The first of those was inadequate adhesion between the components in the tire." Trial Tr. 133. The second was that the subject tire's "inner liner was too thin," which "allowed oxygen to permeate into the body of the tire up into the belt and body ply package and caused oxidation or deterioration of the rubber." Trial Tr. 133-34. He determined that the separation had occurred "between the body ply and the first belt." Trial Tr. 152. And, he testified that the subject tire failed well before the end of its expected useful service life. See Trial Tr. 132.

         Southwell's first defect opinion was based on his finding of "multiple areas in the tire of what's called 'liner imprint.'" Trial Tr. 134. He asserted that newly mixed tire rubber is soft and sticky, and it is rolled up with "an interleaving liner ... so that the rubber doesn't actually touch itself." Trial Tr. 137-38. When that liner is removed, "the imprint of the pattern on the plastic liner is embedded in the soft rubber." Trial Tr. 139. According to Southwell's experience and opinion, when the tire is assembled, "[p]atterns in the soft, tacky rubber should completely disappear." See Trial Tr. 140. That is because adjoining rubber components should "become one piece of rubber" through a chemical reaction process called interdiffusion. Trial Tr. 140-41. Thus, according to Southwell, when you see liner patterns, "you know that you're looking at one of the original interfaces [between internal tire components], an interface that should have interdiffused with its adjoining interface to form a complete bond." Trial Tr. 144-45. Liner pattern marks are "very clear evidence that in those areas, the rubber components had failed to bond to the extent that they are required to bond to prevent the tire from falling apart in service." Trial Tr. 134.

         Incomplete interdiffusion results from a phenomenon called "scorch," which occurs in the manufacturing plant. Trial Tr. 145. Southwell explained that, to vulcanize the rubber and make it "harder and elastic," sulfur is added and heat and pressure are applied. Trial Tr. 146-47. Interdiffusion involves molecular "fingers" at the surface of rubber components migrating across the surfaces of adjacent components and intermixing. Trial Tr. 140, 146-47. When vulcanization occurs, the sulphur joins these fingers and locks them in place. See Trial Tr. 147. Once sulfur has been added to the rubber, however, which occurs early in production (before a tire is built), there is enough heat in the air to start the vulcanization process and lock a rubber component's molecular fingers together. See Trial Tr. 147-48. Hence, "if you leave the components around in the factory for too long before you bring them together, then what will happen is too many of these fingers will have become joined, and they can no longer interdiffuse across the interface with the adjoining component." Trial Tr. 147-48.

         Southwell found "11 separate areas in [the subject] tire of liner pattern mark." Trial Tr. 139, 157-58. That showed to Southwell that "the two surfaces have not interdiffused as they are designed to do" and that "there are significant areas where there is suboptimal or less adhesion than should have been achieved." Trial Tr. 144. Southwell clarified that the existence of liner pattern marks does not absolutely mean that a tire will fail under all operating conditions (e.g., infrequent use, cold conditions, low speed operations). Trial Tr. 157. However, if a tire with inadequate adhesion is "placed into an operation for which it was designed, it's vulnerability or its propensity to fail is much, much increased." Trial Tr. 157. Southwell also testified that the greater the area of inadequate adhesion, the more likely the tire is to fail. Trial Tr. 157. He viewed the liner pattern marks in the subject tire as "extensive." Trial Tr. 158.[1]

         Southwell's second defect opinion was that the subject tire's inner liner, "the innermost layer of rubber in the tire," was too thin. Trial Tr. 161-62. That "allow[ed] oxygen molecules to permeate through the rubber and attack [i.e., oxidize] the[] areas of the tire above the inner liner." Trial Tr. 162.

         Southwell maintained that: "when certain types of rubber . . . [are] exposed to excessive oxygen, particularly at high temperatures, [the rubber's] physical properties change. It goes from being flexible and elastic, and it progresses to something much more brittle and hard." Trial Tr. 163. He stated that such "oxidized rubber is not able to sustain [the constant flexing of driving] in the way that they are intended." Trial Tr. 163-64.

         Southwell testified that the air that causes a problem for a tire is the internal, pressurized air, not the external air. See Trial Tr. 164. And, he explained that "the inner liner's sole function is to retain the inflation pressure inside the tire," "[s]o the inner liner is manufactured using a highly impermeable rubber . . . called halobutyl." See Trial Tr. 163, 165. Southwell clarified that "there's two characteristics of an inner liner that will improve its performance," the rubber type (i.e., halobutyl) and its thickness. Trial Tr. 166. As to thickness, Southwell testified that an inner liner's "impermeability will be governed by the thinnest point" and that "at no point around this inner liner should the gauge be less than 2 millimeters." Trial Tr. 168.

         Having measured the inner liner of the subject tire in 18 separate locations, Southwell concluded that the inner liner was too thin. Trial Tr. 167. Specifically, he determined that the average thickness was 1.8 millimeters thick (with a high of 2.2 and a low of 1.6) and that "[o]f the 18 measurements, only two of them were 2 millimeters or greater." Trial Tr. 167-68. He explained that the inner liner's thickness would have been the same since the date of manufacture and that variation in thickness is "a normal phenomenon in the manufacturing." Trial Tr. 168-69, 171, 174-75. He concluded that "[t]he reduced thickness allowed oxygen to permeate into the body ply and the belts at a much higher rate than was designed to be the case," such that "[t]he body ply lost its ability to withstand force and contributed to the ultimate failure of the tire." Trial Tr. 181.[2]

         Southwell also explained that, upon inspection, he discovered physical evidence of oxidation within the subject tire. Trial Tr. 181-82. Oxidation can be detected by a tactile inspection and, to some extent, by appearance. Trial Tr. 181-82. Southwell found oxidation "in large areas of the body ply" on the basis of "the appearance and the feel of the body ply and first belt skim coat." Trial Tr. 182.[3]

         In sum, Southwell concluded that both defects contributed to cause the accident and created unreasonably dangerous conditions that existed when the subject tire left Defendants' hands. Trial Tr. 160, 185.[4]

         iii. Alternative Causes

         Southwell also ruled out alternative potential causes of the accident. First, he concluded that the chronological age of the tire was not a factor because: "[t]ruck tires do not expire. Their life is determined by the depth of tread." .See Trial Tr. 198-99. The subject tire was: "approximately 53 percent worn. So it's around about halfway through its original life, bearing in mind that a truck tire is designed not only for its original life, but also for subsequent retreads." Trial Tr. 132.

         Second, Southwell ruled out an impact as a cause of the tire failure. Had impact been the cause of the failure of the subject tire, Southwell would "expect to find an impact site which is readily visible, and . . . would expect to see a fracture to the shoulder in the sidewall., / Trial Tr. 199-200. And, he stated that, if an impact had caused the break to the second belt that appeared in the subject tire (as Defendants' expert Joseph Grant suggested), "[y]ou would expect to see something on the tread and in the belts above the second belt in the third and fourth belt." Trial Tr. 200, 202. But, he concluded that "[t]here was no evidence on the tire of it having suffered a significant impact that in any way contributed to its failure." Trial Tr. 199. Furthermore, Southwell explained that the damage that occurred to the second belt was accident-related, not impact-related, because "[t]he only component that's been damaged at that location is the second belt, which was in the middle of the tire but became exposed in the flapping around" of the accident; the other components were intact. Trial Tr. 202-05.

         Finally, Southwell confirmed that he did not "find any other bases or reasons for this tire to come apart the way it did other than the two defects" that he found and to which he testified extensively. See Trial Tr. 205.

         2. Defendants' Liability Evidence

         Defendants' liability evidence came primarily from two witnesses, Yun Chang Chun and Joseph Grant.

         i. Yun Chang Chun

         Chun is an employee of HTCL, having worked there for approximately 20 years, and he has a mechanical engineering degree. Trial Tr. 452-53. He worked at the plant where the subject tire was manufactured at the time it was made. Trial Tr. 454-55. His team's job involved "mak[ing] sure that th[e] specifications were being applied properly," and he had exposure to Defendants' quality control processes. Trial Tr. 455-56.

         Chun testified at length as to Defendants' manufacturing and quality assurance procedures. For example, he explained that Defendants "make sure that [their rubber is] stored properly to make sure that they don't get contaminated," they "use liner paper to wrap the rubber sheets in," and they "make sure that [the rubber is] used in a timely manner based on the first-in-first-out principle." Trial Tr. 458. In addition, Defendants "control [their] stock period," have a "use-by period . . . based on established standards," employ a radiofrequency identification system to monitor compliance with the use-by periods, and "have every semifinished product tagged so that the operator" "would manually double-check the product at each stage." Trial Tr. 460-62. Furthermore, every tire that Defendants produce, after completion, is subjected to an "exterior appearance inspection," an x-ray by trained technicians, and uniformity checks (which test for balanced weight distribution, proper shape, and counteraction with the ground). Trial Tr. 459-60.

         Chun also described Defendants' performance testing. He explained that a test is performed that runs a tire simulating a load until it fails. Trial Tr. 471-72. He indicated that Defendants' tires far surpassed the federal durability standard (and Defendants' higher internal standard) for the week of testing closest to the week when the subject tire was manufactured. Trial Tr. 478-79.

         Chun additionally discussed Defendants' inner liner specifications. He testified that the subject tire's inner liner had three layers. Trial Tr. 522. The first was halobutyl "to prevent or minimize the air leakage from inside of the tire to the outside of the tire." Trial Tr. 522. The second layers were natural rubber and were designed to protect the halobutyl layer from stress (as it is "very susceptible to stress") and to serve as a buffer between that layer and the tire carcass (because the halobutyl layer "should not come in contact with the carcass itself"). Trial Tr. 522-23. Chun explained that Defendants measure the inner liner based on "all three inner liners together" because of the distinct functions of the layers, and they "use the end point of the cord as a starting point for the measurement of the thickness of the inner liner." See Trial Tr. 524. A sample tire of those manufactured when the subject tire was made was tested for inner liner thickness, and the results were 4.1 millimeters on one side of the tire and 4.6 millimeters on the other. Trial Tr. 538.[5]

         ii. Joseph Grant

         Joseph Grant was Defendants' expert in "[t]ire manufacture, quality assurance and testing of tires, and tire failure analysis." Trial Tr. 592. He has a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering, ''worked for Continental General Tire for 34 1/2 years," and also did "full-time independent [tire] consulting work all the way up even to the present." Trial Tr. 574-75, 589-91. He has "been involved with the manufacture, the design, the testing, quality assurance, the care, and service of tires for 47 years." Trial Tr. 575. His "whole career [he's] been doing forensic analysis" on tires. Trial Tr. 586-87. Grant is also a member of a variety of relevant industry societies. Trial Tr. 587-89.

         Grant concluded, based on what he thought was "overwhelming physical evidence," that the subject tire "sustain[ed] a very localized failure in one location of the tire as a result of a road hazard impact." Trial Tr. 601. He explained that there was "a break in the No. 2 steel belt" and "a very obvious separation that developed where that break is" ("between steel belts two and three"). Trial Tr. 601.[6]

         Grant stated that "the No. 3 and 4 belt above th[e impact] region are actually gone" and "there's actually a piece of tread missing" there as well. Trial Tr. 603. He further testified that "there's rubber tear lines that are emanating directly away from where that break is that are characteristic of a separation developing inside the tire from multiple revolutions because the rubber has to take up more of the stresses and strains because it's been compromised from the broken No. 2 steel belt." Trial Tr. 604. He noted that "you don't see anywhere else around the tire the characteristics of these types of tears." Trial Tr. 605. Based on "the size of the separation, the freshness of the tear lines, and the lack of accelerated wear on the outside," Grant determined that "the physical evidence indicates that [something] happened in roughly 200 miles of [the accident] in a localized area." Trial Tr. 610.[7]

         Additionally, Grant expressed the view that Defendants are doing "exactly what I would expect to see in a well-manufactured, well-run plant" with respect to quality assurance, in perspective of his "review of Hankook manufacturing documents, the testimony of Mr. Chun, and [his] experience." See Trial Tr. 662.

         Grant also questioned Southwell's opinions. Thus, according to Grant, he discovered no liner pattern marks in the failure area; noted that there is "good, multilevel random tearing of the structure" (i.e., the tire is "not coming apart at any manufactured interface"); found that the subject tire "did not even catch an interface where there was a liner pattern"; observed that liner patterns can show up without affecting adhesion; and "concluded that there is absolutely nothing that would indicate there's any adhesion issue." See Trial Tr. 616-17, 620, 665-66, 670-73, 675.[8] Grant also explained that, if rubber "gets scorched, it's going to be across the entire surface." Trial Tr. 669-70. And, Grant opined that the inner liner was not too thin because if one adds up all the layers of the subject tire's inner liner (not just the halobutyl layer), it is above 2.5 millimeters, which is "best in class" and "what inner liners ... in all steel truck tires . . . with high technology are actually designed to have." Trial Tr. 684-85.[9] Furthermore, he concluded that no oxidation occurred because "the rubber is still supple" (even three years after the accident, during which "these components have been subjected to more air . . . than they were while they were stuck together") and the failure was in one location. Trial Tr. 676. Additionally, he testified that the manner in which the tire disintegrated shows that "this tire did not come apart between the body ply and the first belt." Trial Tr. 613-14. Moreover, he noted that a break could arise in only belt two based on how the belts are oriented. Trial Tr. 615. Finally, he found that the break in belt two was not merely accident damage. See Trial Tr. 615-16.

         C. Overview of Plaintiff's Damages Evidence

         Benedict's evidence[10] established that, immediately upon becoming conscious after the accident, his neck hurt, he was frightened, and "[b]lood was gushing everywhere out of [his] leg." Trial Tr. 367, 369. He could not move because he was pinned by the steering wheel. Trial Tr. 368. The cab was full of smoke and glass, and it smelled of burnt oil. Trial Tr. 368. Benedict was conscious the whole time he was trapped in the truck. Trial Tr. 369.

         By the time Benedict was delivered to the trauma surgeon, Benedict's heart had stopped. Trial Tr. 78. The trauma surgeon opened Benedict's chest, began pumping his heart by hand, and gave Benedict drugs to restart his heart. Trial Tr. 78. Eventually, the trauma surgeon also discovered massive internal injuries; Benedict's ribs "had pierced a couple areas of his lungs, they'd also pierced into his abdomen and poked a hole in his spleen." Trial Tr. 81-82.[11] Benedict had "flail chest" on the left side, which is "a chest that has fractures in two places in two or more ribs." Trial Tr. 91.

         After the trauma surgeon had stabilized Benedict, the surgeon found "a devastating injury to his cervical spine." Trial Tr. 86. The injury was to the C-5/C-6 level of the spine, which "controls . . . the lower arms and the hands" and anything below that level. See Trial Tr. 87-88.[12] That injury caused Benedict to be permanently paralyzed. See Trial Tr. 86, 318-19, 424.

         Furthermore, because of the internal injuries, "[f]or quite a while [Benedict] was unable to breathe on his own." Trial Tr. 94. And, for a week, Benedict was in a medically induced coma. Trial Tr. 96. He also was subjected to several surgeries. Trial Tr. 96-97. Benedict stayed in the ICU for about 30 days, from November 14, 2014 until December 19, 2014. See Trial Tr. 98, 424. When he came to, Benedict could not move, communicate, swallow, or eat or drink, and the tube in his mouth felt "not good." Trial Tr. 370-71.

         After he left the ICU, Benedict was moved to "a care facility that would be able to handle ventilated patients" (Vibra) because he was still on a ventilator. Trial Tr. 98. He was there for about a month, from December 19 until January 26, 2015. Trial Tr. 37, 424. In January 2015, after having been weaned off the ventilator, Benedict "was admitted to [the] inpatient rehabilitation medicine service." Trial Tr. 304. At that time, he was "medically stable enough to tolerate at least three hours of intensive rehabilitation, but he still had a lot of ongoing medical issues." Trial Tr. 306. He had no finger movement and "very little functional movement" of his left arm (which was broken) . Trial Tr. 306-07. He also "didn't have control over either bladder or bowel." Trial Tr. 308.

         Benedict underwent extensive rehabilitation therapy from January 26, 2015 until March 20, 2015. See Trial Tr. 37-38, 424. "In a typical day ... he would have at least three hours of therapy time scheduled usually with physical therapy, occupational therapy and then maybe speech therapy." Trial Tr. 312.[13] The goal was to maximize mobility, permit self-care, and train on bladder and bowel management. Trial Tr. 312-13.

         After leaving rehabilitation, Benedict still "wasn't able to be independent in many of his self-care activities or his mobility activities or his bladder and bowel activities." Trial Tr. 315. He needed help to turn in bed, to get dressed, to get out of bed, to eat, and to dispose of waste. Trial Tr. 315-16. To this day, to go to the bathroom, Benedict must be catheterized (urination) or have a 2-2.5 hour invasive bowel program performed on him. Trial Tr. 40-42, 63, 316. He must be catheterized four to six times per day, and the bowel program must be performed every other day. Trial Tr. 41-42. For about two years after Benedict came home, nurses were there around the clock, and he and his family had no privacy. See Trial Tr. 44-45, 47, 377-78. Those nurses helped Benedict dispose of waste, dressed him, stretched him, and bathed him. Trial Tr. 378. During that time, Benedict could not shower (he only had bed baths) and slept in the living room, based on the layout of his home. Trial Tr. 41-42, 46-47, 377-78. Ultimately, the family decided to borrow money to build a handicap accessible home. Trial Tr. 46-47. It took 6-7 months to a year before Benedict was able to bring food to his mouth, and then only with specialized utensils affixed to his hand. Trial Tr. 54, 378-79.

         The evidence proved, without dispute, that Benedict will be permanently disabled and will likely not improve in neurological function. Trial Tr. 98, 318-19.[14] He "has a very weak ability to pinch or grasp" that is "very nonfunctional." Trial Tr. 313-14.[15] Benedict has not been able to do anything to care for himself since the accident, and his wife has been taking care of him 12 hours a day. Trial Tr. 343, 385. Nurses assist him with him with his daily needs. Trial Tr. 47-48. Benedict's wife often helps him with waste disposal, particularly at night. See Trial Tr. 40-42, 47, 49-50. Because Benedict must be catheterized and turned every few hours, neither Benedict nor his wife can sleep through the night. Trial Tr. 49-50. Benedict gets spasms every day that feel "like someone is punching him in the stomach, and he can't breathe." Trial Tr. 52, 382. Throughout the day, Benedict must be placed in a stand-up wheelchair "for pressure releases to eliminate bed sores." Trial Tr. 64. He is not able to go through the showering process every day because" [i] t's a lot of work, and it's a lot on him" (it requires a special lift and a shower chair). Trial Tr. 51. Benedict cannot dress himself and the dressing process is difficult because Benedict is paralyzed from the chest down and cannot bend his arms normally. Trial Tr. 53, 313. Benedict has not been left alone for a minute since being released from the hospital. Trial Tr. 62. He tries not to take pain medication, but he has nevertheless has had to do so because "[h]e has pain in his head and neck area, and even some pain below the level of injury." Trial Tr. 315.

         As a paralyzed individual, Benedict is at risk for several medical problems. For example, he is at constant risk of autonomic dysreflexia, or "a hyperstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system," which can be brought on by "[a]ny noxious stimuli" below the level of spine injury, including "a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, a fracture, a pressure ulcer .... tight clothing, bowel constipation" or unaddressed waste disposal needs. Trial Tr. 309-10. That can cause" [v]ery high blood pressures to the point where you can have cerebral hemorrhage or stroke." Trial Tr. 309-10. When a bout of autonomic dysreflexia occurs, Benedict gets very uncomfortable, starts sweating badly, gets chills, and his blood pressure skyrockets. Trial Tr. 382. He is also at greater risk of bone fractures, pressure ulcers, bladder infections, lung fluid and infections, abnormal bone growth, contractures (limitations in joint flexibility), etc. Trial Tr. 307, 310-11, 317. Some of these comorbidities can kill a paralyzed person, and they reduce life expectancy. Trial Tr. 317-18, 322. In fact, Benedict has experienced autonomic disreflexia, UTIs, more colds and allergies, and has had to go to the hospital for blood clots. Trial Tr. 382-83.[16]

         Before the accident, Benedict was "a young, very strong man/' was in excellent health, was an "outdoors person/' had a passion for driving trucks (since he "was a little kid"), engaged in activities with his family and friends (e.g., sports, going to the beach, parks, amusement parks, decorating the house, going to the racetrack, grilling, bowling), would "tak[e] care of all the problems," and would work around the home (e.g., cooking, laundry, yardwork) . Trial Tr. 30, 330, 332, 359-60, 385-86. Now, Benedict cannot ambulate; he cannot "do anything he used to do with [his] children"; his wife has become "his caretaker and his nurse"; he has no intimate relationship with her; he "can't ever be alone"; and the fact that "everything is on [his wife's] shoulders now . . . really hurts him." Trial Tr. 67-68, 385-86, 417, 425. And, Benedict and his wife lost friends because "[t]hey don't see him the same way." Trial Tr. 65. He gets embarrassed because people "look at him differently" and because of his care needs (e.g., his bathroom needs). Trial Tr. 66. Benedict fears that he will not grow old with his wife and will not live long enough to watch his children grow up. Trial Tr. 68. He misses being a husband and father, and he feels that his family dynamic has dramatically changed "from [him] taking care of all the problems to becoming the problem." Trial Tr. 385-86.

         As to economic damages, the parties stipulated that the past medical costs totaled $2, 049, 675.23. See Trial Tr. 425; PL's Ex. 27. An expert economist, Dr. Frederick Raffa, testified that Benedict's past lost wages were $115, 545; that his future lost wages, at present value, were $493, 141; and that his life care needs (based on a plan set by a qualified life care plan witness, Dr. Craig Lichtblau), at present value, would cost $6, 109, 381. See Trial Tr. 340, 392, 413-14.

         The evidence about the nature of Benedict's injuries and the economic damages were not disputed (and wisely so).

         THE STANDARDS GOVERNING MOTIONS UNDER FED. R. CIV. P. 50(b) AND 59

         The standards applicable to motions for judgment as a matter of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 are well-established:

A court "may grant judgment as a matter of law only if, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and drawing every legitimate inference in that party's favor, . . . the only conclusion a reasonable jury could have reached is one in favor of the moving party." If, upon the conclusion of a party's case, "a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue," a court may grant a motion from the opposing party for judgment as a matter of law.

Huskey v. Ethicon, Inc., 848 F.3d 151, 156 (4th Cir. 2017) (citations omitted); see also United States v. Kivanc, 714 F.3d 782, 795 (4th Cir. 2013) ("[In assessing a motion for judgment as a matter of law, ] [w]e consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party but may not make credibility determinations or substitute our judgment for that of the jury.").

         The standards for a new trial under Rule 59 are equally familiar:

"In considering a motion for a new trial, a trial judge may weigh the evidence and consider the credibility of witnesses, and if he finds the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, is based on false evidence or will result in a miscarriage of justice, he must set aside the verdict, even if supported by substantial evidence, and grant a new trial." "The decision to grant or deny a motion for a new trial is within the sound discretion of the district court and will not be disturbed absent a clear showing of abuse of discretion."

See King v. McMillan, 594 F.3d 301, 314-15 (4th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants raise three main arguments. First, they claim that judgment should be directed in their favor as a matter of law because Benedict failed to establish that the subject tire was negligently manufactured. See Defs.' Br. 6-19.[17] Second, Defendants contend that a new trial should be ordered because the verdict was against the clear weight of the evidence. See Defs.' Br. 19-22. Third, Defendants maintain that the jury's award was excessive. See Defs.' Br. 22-28.

         I. Defendants' Arguments that Plaintiff Failed to Establish that the Subject Tire Was Negligently Manufactured

         Defendants' argue that, to prove negligent manufacturing, a plaintiff must show not only that a product was "unreasonably dangerous" because it failed to conform to some objective standard, but also that the defect was a result of the manufacturer's failure to exercise due care in the manufacturing process. Defs.' Br. 7-9. They further allege that the Court's jury instructions required such proof. Defs.' Br. 9. They also assert that Benedict's expert testimony was insufficient to establish any objective manufacturing standards or breach thereof. See Defs.' Br. 12. These contentions are unavailing.

         A. The Standards Governing Negligent Manufacturing Claims

         1. The Summary Judgment Opinion (ECP No. 343)

         In resolving Defendants' pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion describing, at length, the standards applicable to negligent manufacturing claims in Virginia. See Benedict v. Hankook Tire Co. Ltd., 295 F.Supp.3d 632, 637-47 (E.D. Va. 2018) (ECF No. 343). The Court incorporates that Opinion in relevant part here, and it presumes familiarity with it. Nevertheless, a few points are worth repeating.

         First, the Court previously held that there exists a basic products liability framework in Virginia. Benedict, 295 F.Supp.3d at 637. As the Court explained, "a products liability plaintiff must establish three elements: (1) the product must contain a 'defect which rendered it unreasonably dangerous for ordinary or foreseeable use'; (2) the defect must have 'existed when it left the defendant's hands'; and (3) the defect must have 'actually caused the plaintiff's injury.'" Id. (citations omitted). "For a plaintiff to prove that an 'unreasonably dangerous' defect existed, [h]e or she must establish the violation of industry or government standards, or prove that consumer expectations have risen above such standards.'" Id. (citations omitted). If there are no industry standards, courts may "rely on expert ...


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