A state Court of Appeal on Monday overturned a $6.5-million jury verdict against American Honda Motor Co., deciding that videotaped evidence failed to prove that the design of a Honda Civic caused an accident that severely injured a 17-year-old girl in 1979.
Jurors had granted $6.2 million to Marchell Leekins, now 25, and another $300,000 to her parents, Louise and William Leekins, on April 17, 1985, after an expert witness indicated that 12-inch tires (rather than safer 13-inch tires) on the 1978 model car caused it to go out of control and roll over.
Marchell, one of five Cabrillo High School basketball players returning home to Santa Maria from a Memorial Day game, suffered spinal injuries when the car swerved and overturned. The driver was killed, and the three other passengers were not injured.
But the 2nd District Court of Appeal said that the admission by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul G. Breckenridge of a videotape supporting the witness's remarks "was clearly erroneous." Without the videotape, the justices added, insufficient evidence existed to warrant the verdict.