20th Anniversary of Baker v. General Motors SCOTUS Argument Recognized

Partners Kent Emison and Bob Langdon pictured this summer, after Kent was honored with the Thomas Strong Trial Attorney Award from the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.

This fall marked the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court argument in Baker v. General Motors, and a news piece that aired this fall on several broadcast affiliates takes a look at this precedential case.  Baker was a Langdon & Emison victory described as influential in the law because it provided an answer to the question of whether expert testimony could be called upon from former employees.

The piece, which can be viewed via the video clip above, features Bob Langdon and his memories of the case’s journey through the lower court and on to Washington.  Baker was argued before the Supreme Court on October 15, 1997.  But it was a long road to reach the nation’s High Court, as GM sought to prohibit a former employee’s testimony from being allowed in the case due to an injunction from a court in Michigan.

After working for the auto manufacturer for fifteen years as a vehicular fire analyst, Ronald Elwell sued GM for wrongful discharge. In an eventual settlement agreement reached in a Michigan county court, the parties agreed to a permanent injunction barring Elwell from testifying against GM without its consent, unless subpoenaed to do so by another court or tribunal.

Thereafter, when L&E represented the family of Kenneth Lee Baker in a product liability action, Elwell was subpoenaed to testify on Baker’s behalf.  When GM argued that Elwell was barred from testifying under the Michigan court injunction, the Missouri court disagreed and permitted his deposition and testimony.  After suffering an adverse verdict in the Baker case, GM appealed on the basis that Elwell’s testimony was illegally admitted.  A federal appeals court agreed with GM, so Langdon & Emison appealed and the Supreme Court granted cert.  The eventual ruling for our firm client was 9-0 from the Supreme Court justices.