The Tennessee case, Flax v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., is a product liability claim that involved a substantial award of punitive damages. The case had been upheld by the Tennessee Supreme Court but recently has been denied by the Highest Court for a writ of certiorari. In the tragic event of Joshua Flax’s case, who was just an infant, was riding in a van (in a child safety seat) along with his mother, grandfather, and another passenger. The van was then hit in the rear by a pick up truck that was significantly speeding. As the van was hit, the top of the front passenger seat struck the infant’s forehead, which resulted in a fracture to his skull as well as brain damage. A general safety rule known by most is the fact that “the seatback in cars is supposed to be a safety device and is made to help protect occupants”. The infant died the next day, suffering from multiple injuries.
In the trial, experts argued that Joshua would have not suffered injuries and died if in fact the seat in front of him had not yielded rearward. DaimlerChrysler alleged that the rearward yielding of the seats protect all occupants in the vehicle and that the seats in the vehicle had been approved by the government safety regulations. Plaintiffs argued that this was not true due to the furnishing of a former employee of the carmaker who testified that he was fired as a whistleblower due to the fact that he had inspected and found many minivan seat safety problems that occurred in the 90’s. In the proceedings of the case, the Court ruled that “a punitive damage award of $13,367,345 is consistent with the concept that the reprehensibility of a Defendant’s conduct is the most important part of due the process guideposts”. The Court believed their decision to be justified due to DaimlerChrysler’s long-term patterns that had resulted in major injuries to the petitioner and lacked any regard for the safety of Tennessee citizens. This case shows an immense amount of significance due to the fact that the US Supreme Court refused all inquiries to hear the case.