Articles Posted in Dangerous Vehicles

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing when a plaintiff’s duty to preserve evidence arises. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s duty to preserve evidence arises at the same time a defendant’s duty does, which is when the plaintiff reasonably anticipates litigation will be forthcoming.

Tire TreadThe case presents an important issue for Maryland car accident victims in that it illustrates a plaintiff’s duty to preserve evidence, which, if not followed, can result in serious sanctions up to and including dismissal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband was seriously injured when a tire on the vehicle he was driving blew out, sending the vehicle spinning out of control on the highway. Eventually, the vehicle came to a rest upside down, and the plaintiff’s husband was left unconscious as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nevada issued a written opinion in a product liability case that will be of interest to anyone who is considering filing a Maryland product liability lawsuit. The case required the court to consider the defendant auto manufacturer’s argument that the risk-utility test should be adopted over the consumer-expectations test, which had long been the prevailing test for product liability claims. Ultimately, the court rejected the auto manufacturer’s request to adopt the risk-utility test and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

Wrecked CarMaryland courts apply the consumer-expectations test when evaluating a product liability lawsuit. This test requires courts to put themselves in the position of a consumer, asking whether the product at issue performed as expected under the circumstances. Some other jurisdictions apply the risk-utility test, which asks whether there is a reasonably safe alternative design that the manufacturer could have used rather than the design that was actually used. Under this test, it is the plaintiff’s burden to establish that the reasonable alternative exists.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving an SUV manufactured by the defendant, with her husband riding as the front-seat passenger. As the plaintiff attempted a lane change, the trailer she was towing began to fishtail, and the SUV flipped over, rolling several times. When the vehicle came to a stop, it was resting on its roof. The plaintiff was able to slip out of the window, but her husband was crushed. The plaintiff filed this product liability lawsuit against the auto manufacturer, claiming that the SUV’s roof was not sufficiently tested and was defectively designed.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion that may be of interest to anyone injured in a Maryland car accident due to a dangerous or defective component in a vehicle. In the case, the court affirmed a jury’s verdict in favor of a man who was permanently paralyzed after being involved in a car accident while riding as a passenger in a van manufactured by the defendant. However, since the manner in which the verdict was rendered may suggest that the jury was confused, a new trial was awarded to determine the appropriate amount of damages the plaintiff is owed.

Westphalia VanThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving a van manufactured by the defendant when he was involved in a low-speed collision with the vehicle in front of him. The van rolled onto its side after the collision. Despite the fact that he was wearing his seatbelt at the time, the plaintiff slammed his head against the van’s roof, resulting in his spinal cord being severed. The plaintiff was paralyzed from the neck down after the accident. No one else in the van suffered any injuries.

The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the van’s manufacturer, alleging several theories of liability. However, after a trial was conducted, the jury found the manufacturer liable only for failing to conduct adequate testing on the seatbelt mechanism. The jury awarded the plaintiff $1 million in past damages and nothing for future damages.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued an interesting written opinion in a product liability case, discussing when a plaintiff is able to introduce evidence of similar defects in the defendant’s product that had occurred in the past.

car interiorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were stopped at a highway off-ramp when they were rear-ended by a 1996 Toyota that was exiting the highway, traveling at 75 miles per hour. Two of the people in the car were instantly killed, and three other passengers were seriously injured, with one suffering from quadriplegia.

Initially, the other driver was charged with vehicular homicide; however, Toyota later announced a recall of the braking systems of many 1996 Toyotas, including the other driver’s vehicle. He was later exonerated. After the recall and subsequent exoneration, the plaintiffs in the stopped vehicle filed a product liability lawsuit against Toyota.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in South Carolina issued an interesting opinion in a case brought by a man who was injured when he was involved in an accident while driving a GM vehicle. The case required the court to determine if a plaintiff’s own negligence in causing their injuries is relevant when the plaintiff files a product liability claim against the vehicle’s manufacturer. Ultimately, the court concluded that a plaintiff’s own potential negligence is not relevant to the inquiry and should not be considered.

Old TruckThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger in a 1987 Chevy Pick-up truck that was being driven by a friend. The evidence presented at trial suggested that the two had smoked synthetic marijuana earlier in the day. At one point, the driver of the pick-up failed to stop at a stop sign, and the vehicle was struck by another truck towing a horse trailer. The pick-up truck burst into flames after the collision. The driver of the vehicle died, and the plaintiff was seriously injured.

The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against GM, the manufacturer of the pick-up truck, arguing that the placement of the gas tank caused the fire. Importantly, the plaintiff was only seeking compensation for his enhanced burn injuries.

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Earlier this month, a Georgia appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability case brought by the wife of a man who died when one of the tires on his Ford Explorer blew out on the highway. In the case, Cooper Rubber & Tire v. Koch, the court had to determine if the plaintiff’s destruction of potentially relevant physical evidence before trial should result in her being prohibited from admitting the blown-out tire into evidence. Ultimately, the court determined that at the time the plaintiff destroyed the evidence, litigation was not foreseeable, and thus a duty to preserve the evidence did not exist.

TireThe Facts of the Case

Mr. Koch was involved in an accident while driving on Interstate 16 after one of his tires blew out. While Mr. Koch was hospitalized and in intensive care, the towing company that removed his totaled vehicle from the scene of the accident told his wife that they were incurring a daily storage fee for the vehicle. Mrs. Koch told her husband of the offer, and the two agreed to sign the title over to the towing company to satisfy her debt. Mr. Koch told his wife to make sure that the towing company “saves the tires.” However, the towing company only saved the blown out tire and discarded the three other tires, all four wheels, and the rest of the vehicle.

A few months later, Mr. Koch died while still in the hospital. Shortly after her husband’s death, Mrs. Koch filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cooper Rubber & Tire, the manufacturer of the blown-out tire.

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Over the past few years, U.S. and foreign auto manufacturers have been in the spotlight after issuing a record number of recalls totaling millions of vehicles. These recalls range from faulty ignition switches to airbags that fail to deploy when they should. In fact, it was recently discovered that 29 million vehicles may contain defective airbags. However, despite the shockingly high number of recalls, there is a relatively low compliance rate among drivers.

texture-860666_960_720Of course, it is ultimately the manufacturer’s burden to create and market a safe vehicle. And a company’s failure to adequately inform all owners of a recall cannot be considered to be a motorist’s fault. However, recent efforts by auto manufacturers to boost compliance among drivers seem to be in the works.

According to one national news source, about 25% of all recalled vehicles remain on the road with the recalled parts. However, car manufacturers are seeking to change that by getting the help of insurance companies. According to the news report, car manufacturers are asking insurance companies to remind motorists to take in recalled vehicles to get the repairs performed.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in New York affirmed a lower court’s opinion keeping out a plaintiff’s expert’s testimony in a product liability lawsuit filed against BMW. In the case, Sean R. v. BMW, the plaintiff was a minor child who was born with severe disabilities allegedly caused by his in utero exposure to gasoline vapor in his mother’s BMW vehicle. Ultimately, the case was dismissed because the plaintiff’s expert witnesses were prevented from testifying because their opinions did not rely on “generally accepted methodologies.”

headlights-vintage-bmw-1526025The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s family bought a BMW 525i back in 1989. The car was primarily used by the plaintiff’s mother to run local errands. Two years later, the plaintiff’s mother noticed a smell of gasoline that “came and went.” It was at this time she became pregnant with the plaintiff. She continued to use the car despite the smell.

After getting the car looked at twice by a mechanic, it was discovered that the smell was caused by a split fuel line that resulted in fuel being spilled into the engine compartment. The plaintiff’s mother drove the car about 6,500 miles before the car was repaired. Two years later, BMW initiated a recall for all 525i models, due to defective fuel lines.

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Over the past few years, cars with keyless ignitions have become more and more popular, not just on high-end models but across the board. However, according to some news reports, there are some serious safety concerns about keyless ignition systems that anyone considering a car equipped with one should be aware of.

ignition-key-1473503A keyless ignition system allows for a car to be started without actually putting a key into the ignition and turning it. Instead, a wireless key fob allows for the car to be started anytime the fob is inside the car. Usually, drivers carry the fob in their pocket and start the car with a push of a button. However, there is no “shut-off” mechanism in place in most of these systems, and once the driver gets out of the car the car can continue to run. This has led to a number of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

In fact, two years ago, a Pennsylvania couple was found dead in their home. Their Lincoln was still running in the attached garage with the key fob used to start the car still in the vehicle. Instances like this one have led some lawmakers to seriously consider the regulation of keyless ignition systems. While this may seem like an unusual situation, there have been at least 13 confirmed carbon monoxide poisoning deaths caused by cars with keyless ignitions.

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