“All the money in the world will not make Mr Pannu what he was before.”
On December 14th, 2003, Sukhsagar Pannu was travelling in his Land Rover Discovery, when another vehicle sideswiped him. The collision caused Mr. Pannu to lose control of the vehicle, which subsequently rolled over multiple times before coming to rest upside down. Sukhsagar suffered catastrophic injuries to his spinal cord, rendering him paralyzed and radically altering his life and livelihood forever.
It was then that Garo and Armen stepped in, recovering a multi-million dollar award for Mr. Pannu on the grounds that the rollover propensity and defectiveness of the Discovery’s roof was responsible for Sukhsagar’s injuries.
The $100 Issue
“This vehicle looked like a fortress, was sold like a fortress, but really, it was a matchbox”
— Garo Mardirossian
Land Rover attempted to attribute full responsibility to the driver of the car that initially collided with Sukhsagar’s vehicle; while the driver was undoubtedly responsible for causing the incident, the real issue concerns the extent of Mr. Pannu’s injuries once the collision happened. The easiest way to think of this is:
If these vehicles were actually as safe as the manufacturers had made them out to be, Sukhsagar would not have sustained the level of injury that he did.
The judgement in favor of Mr Pannu was based on two major considerations. That:
The vehicle’s high center of gravity made it susceptible to roll over, and;
The roof collapsed too easily.
When these factors are considered, it was the design of the Discovery that led to the catastrophic damage to Sukhsagar’s spine, not the collision itself; that is, had everything played out in exactly the same way but with Mr Pannu driving a different vehicle, the outcome may not have been nearly as life-altering as it ultimately was.
But there was another, perhaps more insidious element to consider. Land Rover knew about the safety issues of the Discovery, yet failed to correct them. What’s more, they sold the vehicles as though these issues did not exist.
“Land Rover hadn’t told the public that they would actually rig the vehicles in commercials with roll cages”
— Armen Akaragian
As Armen explains below, the way in which the Discovery was marketed planted the belief in consumers’ minds that these vehicles were far safer than they actually were, and for the sake of a mere $100.00, the extent of Sukhsagar’s injuries could have been significantly mitigated:
As this excerpt from FindLaw succinctly summarizes, the catastrophic injury Mr. Pannu suffered was wholly avoidable (emphasis added):
“The court … found Land Rover strictly liable for a failure to warn of the dangerous propensities of the Discovery. According to the vehicle’s window sticker, Pannu was informed the Discovery had a “steel inner body cage” and a “steel roof panel,” among other things. Based on earlier testing of the Discovery, Land Rover had sufficient knowledge about the possibility of rollovers and roof crush that it should have warned consumers, including Pannu, of these risks.
Instead, Land Rover highlighted these aspects of the vehicle as safety features.”
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“This was going to be a battle. Major automotive manufacturers don’t give in early — they fight you tooth and nail, and we knew we were in this for the long haul”
— Garo Mardirossian
The rapid steering maneuvers employed by Mr Pannu in an attempt to regain control of his vehicle would have led to the vehicle rolling over, when slight modifications could have dramatically reduced the risk of rollover, and;
Had the ~$100 worth of roof reinforcements been implemented as mentioned above, the roof would have only crushed 3 inches into the occupant space, as opposed to 16-17 inches without the reinforcement.
Even Land Rover’s senior engineer acknowledged the fact that these modifications were available at the time of Mr. Pannu’s accident — not only that, but the cost of implementing such modifications would have been next to negligible.
Essentially, the design elements of the Discovery that led to Sukhsagar’s catastrophic injury were deemed to have presented an “excessive preventable danger”, and for this reason, the court ruled in his favor.
However, that was not the end of it. Land Rover appealed the verdict, levelling several challenges against the initial outcome. Their main arguments were that:
An ordinary driver would have no idea how safely a vehicle can be made;
The lack of skid marks at the scene of the collision fully refuted the finding of a stability defect, and;
Sukhsagar’s injury was caused by his head hitting the roof — which they held would have happened regardless — rather than by the roof crushing inwards.
The Final Verdict
“If you prepare yourself well, you can anticipate most of what’s going to happen”
— Armen Akaragian
After a drawn out process that took over two years, the appellate decision was finally made in favor of Mr Pannu.
The court ruled that substantial evidence not only supported the claims of Land Rover’s liability with regard to the Discovery’s defects, but also that they had indeed failed to warn the public of such defects when they reasonably could have done.
This outcome was a victory for many reasons, not least because of the fact that Land Rover had advanced an argument that “characterizes Pannu as essentially nothing more than the manager of the stores, akin to an employee who was readily replaced by family members and paid workers”.
As described in another passage from FindLaw (emphasis added):
“Land Rover’s argument is predicated on a distortion of the record. Pannu introduced compelling evidence of the devastating impact of his injury on his ability to work and the length of time he was likely to be able to work…
Contrary to Land Rover’s grudging argument, there was ample evidence of Pannu’s entrepreneurial skills, his work ethic and his consistent success in growing his businesses… His injuries deprived him of far more than his ability to earn a manager’s salary; there was thus ample evidence to support the trial court’s award of economic damages.”
Our firm was able to deliver this outstanding result for Sukhsagar because of our tireless, unrelenting drive to uncover the truth and deliver justice.
“Hopefully, other manufacturers will look at this case and say, ‘Let’s spend the money and make the cars safe.’”
Our Lawyers Are Dedicated To Helping Those Who Have Been Catastrophically Injured
Contact Mardirossian Akaragian LLP Today
Our firm offers exceptional talent, abundant resources, tireless dedication, and years of experience to give you the best chance of success in obtaining maximum compensation. Led by our award-winning founding attorney, Garo Mardirossian, we are prepared to provide you with aggressive representation and personalized legal guidance you need.
Talk to a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer about your case or contact our firm to schedule a no-cost consultation.
Admitted to practice in 2006, Armen has arbitrated, tried, and settled several cases which have resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.
Sources cited in this article: