Can a plaintiff motorist's comparative fault be considered in crashworthiness cases based on strict liability or breach of warranty? That was the issue of first impression for the South Carolina Supreme Court in Donze v. General Motors, LLC, 420 S.C. 8, 800 S.E.2d 479 (2017). In Donze, the plaintiff passenger had been smoking synthetic marijuana earlier in the day. He sustained severe burn injuries when the truck in which he was riding burst into flames after colliding with another vehicle at a controlled intersection. The accident occurred because the truck driver failed to stop and pulled directly in front of the other vehicle.
The plaintiff brought a crashworthiness case against the truck's manufacturer, alleging that the truck's design was defective because the gas tank was placed outside of the truck's frame. Two issues were certified to the Donze court:
- Does comparative negligence in causing an accident apply in a crashworthiness case when the plaintiff alleges claims of strict liability and breach of warranty and is seeking damages related only to the plaintiff's enhanced injuries?
- Does South Carolina's public policy bar impaired drivers from recovering damages in a crashworthiness case when the plaintiff alleges claims of strict liability and breach of warranty?