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Update: Columbus federal jury hits Volkswagen, Honeywell for $8 million in product liability suit

Chuck Williams

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

A Columbus federal jury has awarded a Carrollton, Ga., couple $8 million in product liability claims against Volkswagen Group of America and Honeywell International as the result of a 2011 automobile crash in Stewart County.

After a seven-day trial, the jury on Wednesday returned a verdict of $7 million for Cheryl Bullock and $1 million for her husband, Kevin Bullock. Under Georgia law, Kevin Bullock, though he was not in the vehicle at the time of the crash, was entitled to damages because of the injuries to his wife and the impact it has on his life.

A jury of eight women and four men found that Cheryl Bullock was 40 percent responsible for the crash, while Volkswagen and Honeywell were 60 percent responsible. The case was tried in U.S. District Court, Middle District of Georgia in front of Judge Clay Land.

The Bullocks owned a 2004 Volkswagen Passat that was equipped with a Garrett turbo charger and seal designed, marketed, manufactured, advertised, sold and distributed by Honeywell.

On Sept. 5, 2011, Cheryl Bullock and her 5-year-old daughter were traveling on Ga. Highway 1 in Stewart County when the Passat experienced sudden and unintended acceleration, causing the Passat to speed out of control, leave the roadway and overturn. The car accelerated to 90 mph, according to testimony.

Cheryl Bullock was left permanently injured after the crash.

Attorneys representing Cheryl Bullock claimed the Passat and its turbo charger were subject to defects that allowed the introduction of combustible accelerants to the Passat engine resulting in uncontrolled acceleration. These defects created an unreasonably dangerous risk during foreseeable vehicle use, the defendants claimed.

The Bullocks’ attorneys also said Volkswagen and Honeywell were aware that defects existed in the turbo charger that could result in dangerous and uncontrolled acceleration.

The defendants’ attorneys argued that Cheryl Bullock had a history of seizures, said her attorney, Kendall C. Dunson of the Montgomery, Ala., firm Beasley, Allen, Crowe, Methvin, Portis & Miles PC.

“It is tough any time you have a claim against a car manufacturer,” he said Friday. “They have all the money in the world and they can hire the best attorneys.”

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