THOMAS L. SELF et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, Defendant and Appellant; VERNE PRIOR,
Defendant and Respondent.
GEORGE WILLIAM MOORE et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, Defendant and Appellant
Civ. No. 41247.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 2, California.
September 24, 1974
At 11 p.m. on 10 April 1968, Verne Prior, driving on U.S. 101 under the
influence of alcohol and drugs at a speed of 65 to 85 miles an hour,
crashed his 1963 Chrysler into the left rear of a 1962 Chevrolet station
wagon stopped on the shoulder of the freeway for a flat tire. In the crash
the Chevrolet station wagon was knocked into a gully, its fuel tank
ruptured, and the vehicle caught fire. Two of its occupants were killed,
and two others, one of whom was plaintiff Christine Smith, a passenger in
the front seat, sustained severe burn injuries.
Smith and others brought an action for personal injuries against Prior for
negligent driving and against General Motors in negligence and strict
liability for defective manufacture and defective design of the station
wagon, in particular the welding of the fuel tank and its placement in the
left rear fender section. Subsequent to the jury's verdict, which included
damages of $350,000 for Smith against both defendants, the trial court
denied General Motors' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict,
but granted its motion for a new trial because juror Spencer on voir dire