(CN) – Hyundai must pay an $8 million default judgment for its “willful efforts to frustrate and undermine truthful pretrial discovery” in the case of a man who was paralyzed in a car accident, the Washington Supreme Court ruled.
Jesse Magana and Angela Smith were hurt in a 1996 car accident when Ricky Smith swerved his Hyundai Accent to avoid an oncoming truck.
Magana, who was rendered a paraplegic in the accident, sued Hyundai for a design defect in the right front seat. The trial court awarded Magana more than $8 million in damages.
The Court of Appeals overturned the decision, because the jury had not been instructed that an expert’s testimony had been stricken from the record.
This set up a second trial, at which the court sanctioned Hyundai for falsely responding to Magana’s discovery request. The court entered a default judgment, which the appeals court again reversed, ruling that Magana could continue his case.
Justice Richard Sanders ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sanctioning Hyundai with a default judgment for failing to disclose other claims involving the seat back of 1995-99 Accents.
“Trial courts need not tolerate deliberate and willful discovery abuse. Given the unique facts and circumstances of this case, we hold that the trial court appropriately diagnosed Hyundai’s willful efforts to frustrate and undermine truthful pretrial discovery efforts,” Sanders wrote.
“Appellate courts may not substitute their discretion for that vested in the trial court, absent abuse. When there is no abuse of trial court discretion, we may not reverse simply because there are other possible ways the trial court could have possibly exercised it,” Sanders concluded.