Irving Cohen was driving his vehicle June 8, 1974 when the vehicle, while he was trying to parallel park, and after he placed it on reverse, shot backwards at a high speed and even with him stepping on the brake did not stop. It moved backwards in an arc around 70 feet to the east side of the street, through an open space on that side. It then jumped the curb, and only stopped when it hit a building’s wall. Astor Cover was walking on that side of the street and was crushed against the wall by the speeding car. This accident cost him a leg and the other leg had required a brace. A Lawyer found out that even with a prosthesis and a brace, he could only stand if he had canes to help him.
Mr. Cover initially filed a case against Mr. Cohen only. After the death of Mr. Cohen, he added General Motors, the manufacturer of the vehicle and Kinney Motors the dealer to the complaint. Instead of Mr. Cohen, it was changed to claim from Mrs. Cohen, who was acting as the administratrix of Mr. Cohen’s estate. A source said this was because they got information that the car was delivered to Mr. Cohen brand new by Kinney Motors on December 22, 1972. It had only been driven around 12, 000 miles, since he got it and should have been working properly.
A two-part trial had a jury decide four issues. The first is whether Mr. Cohen was negligent in his driving, and it was the immediate cause of the accident. Second is if General Motors was negligent and if that negligence also directly contributed t the accident. The third is the throttle return spring of the Chevrolet was defective and was it already defective when it was taken from General Motors. The last is if Chevrolet is reasonably dangerous because of the defect in the spring and did that defect caused the accident. The last question included an instruction that says, “If your answer is ‘yes’ then you must also find as against Kinney Motors as the seller (of the vehicle) on this issue of strict liability.” A policeman said that the jury’s response was, in degrees of fault, was that Mr. Cohen is 2% liable, General Motors 94% and Kinney Motors 4%, and damages were calculated in favor of Astor Cover at $6,000,000 and in favor of Pearl Cover, on her request for relief, at $2,000,000. The trial judged moved the matter of negligence against Mr. Cohen to the jury, along with the issue if liability against Kinney Motors. The issue of Mr. Cohen against General Motors with regard to negligence, and liability was also moved to the jury. He also granted Mr. Kinney’s motion for damages. He also granted General Motors motions to lower the amount demanded from $3,000,000 to $1,000,000 but denied the motion for a new trial.