The Eleventh Circuit recently affirmed a jury verdict for defendant in a suit alleging that it sold faulty wood chippers to an equipment rental company. James v. Terex USA, LLC, No. 20-14553, 2021 WL 2137599 (11th Cir. May 26, 2021).
At trial, the plaintiff sought to introduce lay testimony from a Shane Dinkins about his experience with a different model of wood chipper that he bought from Terex. Plaintiff argued Dinkins’s testimony about his experience with his own wood chipper was necessary to impeach Terex’s opening statement that it “stood behind all its products.” The district court found to the contrary — that Dinkins’s experience with his own wood chipper would be prejudicial because he purchased a completely different model of chipper and so his experience was not similar enough to that of plaintiff. And even if Dinkins experienced the same type of problem with his different model of wood chipper, the district court deemed that testimony unnecessarily cumulative under Rule 403. Plaintiff had many opportunities to introduce evidence that undermined Terex’s theme that it responded to every claim for repair and made the repair. A number of employees testified about their frustrations with Terex’s chippers and what, in their view, was an insufficient response from Terex. Plaintiff offered no reason why the omission of testimony about similar experiences with a dissimilar product substantially prejudiced its ability to impeach Terex’s “theme” presented during its opening statement.
Plaintiff also made the obligatory and hard to show argument that the jury verdict went against the weight of the evidence. There was no dispute that the chippers had some problems. So the only conflicting testimony was about whether Terex appropriately responded when informed of these problems. On that point, the jury was presented with evidence sufficient to support its defense verdict. A number of Terex employees testified that they responded to each of the reported problems with both chippers and, at times, even went above and beyond by providing repairs that were not technically covered by the warranty. 2021 WL 2137599, at *3.