After a fatal accident, the survivors assigned the ownership of the vehicle over to the insurance company. The car was brought to a junkyard, where the airbags were apparently removed and placed in storage. Upon inspecting the vehicle, the plaintiff’s counsel advised the junkyard that the airbags needed to be retained for litigation. By the time suit was filed, and the defendants came to inspect the vehicle, the airbags had apparently been lost, sold, or destroyed. While striking the testimony of plaintiff’s expert based upon his inspection of the vehicle, the court refused to dismiss the case. “Even though we agree with defendant that there is a duty to preserve relevant evidence, in this particular case it is doubtful that the vehicle’s owner had the economic resources to disburse the $4,049.00 required under the insurance policy in exchange for payment of his loss to retain title to the wrecked vehicle. What defendants deem ‘nominal expense’ is relative to the economic situation of each individual. Accordingly, it is apparent that the plaintiff did not have much choice over the vehicle’s assignment to its insurer and the resulting loss of control over the airbags. Defendant further argues that the vehicle was not properly stored and had seriously deteriorated by the time it was inspected. However, neither plaintiffs nor their representatives had control over the vehicle and hence, did not participate in the safeguard mechanism decisions. Plaintiffs did, however, take reasonable steps to alert the junkyard, the legal owner of the vehicle, as to the need to preserve the car.” Perez v. Hyundai, 440 F.Supp.2d 57 (D.P.R. 2006).
[For further discussion, see “What’s New in Product Liability”]
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