In a product liability or manufacturing defects case in Texas, it is common to need extensive discovery on the manufacturing process. Among other things, plaintiffs will need to propound written discovery, take depositions, and retain experts on the issue of defects. Sometimes, a site inspection is also required to determine whether there were particular actions or processes that could have caused a defect. There may be certain kinds of investigation and discovery that are harder to obtain, particularly if a company has taken remedial steps or discontinued manufacturing a particular product since your accident.
In a recent appellate decision, the court considered the plaintiffs’ efforts to sue a tire manufacturer in a wrongful death case after a car accident that was allegedly caused by a defectively manufactured tire. The plaintiffs argued that the tire manufacturer was grossly negligent in its manufacturing practices and that the tire design was defective in failing to include a ply cap or nylon overlay. Accordingly, they asked to view the manufacture of the tire with the overlay so that they could prove how simple it was to add a cost-efficient safety component to the tire.
The plaintiffs asserted that if the actual machine used to manufacture the title wasn’t available, they were willing to view a similar tire-building machine. They explained that any deviations from the norm that their tire expert identified were caused by a person or the equipment used in the process. They hoped to use the recording to prove a correlation between activity in the plant and the later failure due to a defect.
The trial court ordered the tire manufacturer to allow the plaintiff’s team to enter the manufacturing facility for one hour to document the manufacturing process. The inspection was limited by the trial court’s order and divided into two 30-minute segments. In the first half, the tire manufacturer had to allow observation and recording of a tire building machine that manufactured tires of the same size with a nylon overlay. In the second half, the tire manufacturer had to allow recording of a tire building machine that manufactured the same size tires without the nylon overlay.
The evidence was that two months after the subject tire was manufactured, the manufacturer changed the design of the tire, and the equipment actually used to manufacture it was removed from the plant. One of the machines was brought back to the plant, but it was being used to manufacture a tire of a different size. No tire was currently manufactured on the type of machine that had produced the subject tire.
In Texas, a trial court has discretion with regard to discovery orders pertaining to site visits to another party’s property, subject to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 196.7. However, mere relevance is insufficient. The trial court is required to conduct an inquiry into the necessity for the inspection, testing, or sampling on another party’s property. The plaintiff’s theory was that the tire manufacturing equipment was not working properly and that employees were not properly trained. They argued that tire production was partially automated, so the jury needed to see a recording that would give them an idea of how the steel belt misplacement and splicing errors happened.
The appellate court explained that the video was actually intended for demonstrative purposes. Real evidence was evidence directly involved in the incident that gave rise to the litigation, whereas demonstrative evidence was evidence offered for purposes of illustrating what happened. The appellate court explained that the discovery process is not intended to provide for the creation of new evidence to be used to show the jury an illustration. The plaintiffs were asking the tire manufacturer to provide demonstrations of the manufacturing of totally different products with the intention that they would use those demonstrations as a visual aid.
If you or a loved one has been hurt due to a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation, including medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. The experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to help. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.