Articles Posted in Dangerous Vehicles

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.

The 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.

Of 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.”

The 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.

A 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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