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GARAYAN v. VOLKSWAGEN

Mr. Garayan was the right front seat passenger in a 1996 Volkswagen Jetta that was being driven by his cousin, Vicken Melkoun. The car was involved in a single vehicle rollover. Mr. Garayan was comatose for weeks and suffered a brain injury and was rendered an incomplete paraplegic.

Due to the severity of the injuries the California Highway Patrol launched a full-scale investigation into the cause of the accident. The CHP concluded that there was a mechanical failure of the right rear wheel bearing. Plaintiff sued claiming that there were various metallurgical problems with the right rear wheel bearings. Plaintiff retained over 10 liability experts. Based on their examination of the vehicle and its parts, which included extensive metallurgical analysis, they contended that the right rear wheel bearing was defectively designed and manufactured and that the right rear wheel’s retaining nut had not been properly torqued during the manufacturing process. SKF de Mexico, the designer and manufacturer of the wheel bearings settled for $400,000 and agreed to pay an additional $400,000 if plaintiff did not obtain a verdict against Volkswagen. Vicken Melkoun had a $100,000 insurance policy.

After 30 days of trial a downtown Los Angeles jury returned a $6,200,000 verdict against Mr. Garayan’s cousin, Vicken Melkoun and a defense verdict for Volkswagen. Volkswagen had made a statutory offer to compromise before the start of trial for $75,000. As a result, Volkswagen was awarded costs against Mr. Garayan in the sum of $390,000. Volkswagen has filed a lien for its costs against Mr. Melkoun’s $100,000 insurance policy and against the $800,000 settlement between Mr. Garayan and SKF de Mexico.