Articles Posted in Auto Defect Litigation

Takata Corp. is headquartered in Japan and manufactures millions of airbags installed in American vehicles. The company has agreed to recall 33.8 million airbags. That number doubles the already massive recall.

A consent agreement was entered into between Takata and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There is a federal class action injury lawsuit pending in the Miami Federal District Court related to the defective airbags.

The agreement with NHTSA and Takata was reduced to an agreed order in the federal district court class action case. There are 10 automobile manufacturers that installed Takata airbags. According to a recent Chicago Law Daily Bulletin report, 17 million of those vehicles with Takata airbags are in the United States.

Continue reading

A jury in Georgia entered a $150 million verdict to the family of a four-year-old child killed in a Jeep Grand Cherokee that exploded and burst into flames after being rear-ended. The verdict was entered against Chrysler, which is the manufacturer of Jeeps. The trial took place in Decatur County, Georgia. The jury concluded that Chrysler acted with reckless disregard for human life in selling the family a 1999 Jeep with a gas tank mounted behind the rear axle.

The Jeep was being driven by the boy’s aunt when it was hit from behind by a pickup truck in March 2012. The fuel tank leaked, engulfed the Jeep in flames and killed the young boy.

This verdict came down nearly two years after Chrysler compromised with the Federal Safety Agency. Chrysler agreed to a scaled-down recall of some of the older model Jeeps that have rear-mounted gas tanks. The gas tanks were placed in these Jeep models in a way that provides little protection when hit from behind; this makes them susceptible to punctures and deadly fires.

Continue reading

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago has affirmed a decision by the district court judge regarding circumstantial evidence without an expert witness. In this case, the plaintiffs, Howard Piltch and Barbara Nelson-Piltch, were driving in their 2003 Mercury Mountaineer in 2006 when they were involved in an accident; the airbags of their vehicle did not deploy. After the crash, the couple repaired their car, but did not confirm whether the restraint control module, which monitors a crash and electronically decides whether to deploy airbags, was reset during or after repair work.

One year later, the Piltches were driving the car when it hit a patch of black ice. This caused the car to slide off of the road and hit a wall. On impact, none of the cars’ airbags deployed.

After the second crash, the couple had their Mountaineer repaired at the same repair shop that had repaired the car after the 2006 incident. In 2009, the Piltches sold the car to a mechanic who reprogrammed the vehicle’s black box, wiping out the data that might have been remaining from either of the two crashes.

Continue reading

In the model years 2009 and 2010, Toyota’s Corolla has been targeted as a dangerous vehicle because of the electric power steering (ETS) system. In fact, two Toyota Corolla owners, one in New York and one in Pennsylvania, filed suit. The Corolla owners have alleged that the steering system’s defect caused their cars to drift out of control. The lawsuits claim that the steering system defect is a serious safety problem and that Toyota was aware of the problem but did nothing to fix it.

It was alleged in the lawsuit that the defect in the electric power steering system caused a driver to spin out of control on a highway, cross the center line into oncoming traffic before crashing into an embankment. The plaintiffs have alleged that the defect in the electric power steering system is significant and widespread, and they seek to have a class certified by the court.

Toyota, on the other hand, has argued that the court should not allow class certification nationwide because the vehicle shares no common problem. Toyota said the defect in the steering system affects only a small number of Corolla owners. Toyota also said it has reviewed the reports of steering problems and has found that the individual complaints may relate to the way steering feels to them or tire conditions on the particular vehicle.

Continue reading

Six United States senators have asked the Federal Highway Administration to investigate the safety of roadside guardrails. This request was made on March 4, 2015, and it is the latest of a series of inquiries made regarding the guardrails manufactured by Trinity Industries Inc.

The questions about the guardrail system manufactured by Trinity began in October 2014 after a jury found that Trinity had defrauded the United States government by choosing not to report changes to the guardrail system. This act of failing to report changes to the guardrail system was over a period of seven years.

There have been as many as eight deaths reported to be linked to the defective guardrail system. No spokesperson for Trinity would comment on any specific lawsuit.

Continue reading

A federal jury has entered an $11 million verdict for victims of the design defect of the 1996 Toyota Camry.

The jurors indicated that Toyota was 60% at fault for the 2006 crash that left two people dead and two seriously injured. They also found that another defendant, Koua Fong Lee, who had insisted that he tried to stop his car before it slammed into another vehicle, was 40% at fault for the crash. Lee and his family members, the family of a girl who died and two others who were seriously injured, sued Toyota Motor Corp. in the United States District Court in Minneapolis, Minn.

The lawsuit alleged this crash was caused by the acceleration defect in Lee’s Toyota. Toyota maintained that there was no design defect and that Lee was negligent and the sole cause of the crash.

Continue reading

A case against the automaker General Motors was first settled and then refiled after it was revealed that GM had chosen not to report the ignition switch defect to the public for more than 10 years. This was claimed to have been fraudulent concealment.

In this particular Georgia case, the parents of a 29-year-old woman, Brooke Melton, refiled a lawsuit against General Motors because new facts were revealed that related to the automaker’s knowledge that long predated the settlement. She was killed in a GM car in 2010 when the ignition switch on her Chevrolet Cobalt failed and caused the crash that tragically ended her life. General Motors and the family of Melton settled her wrongful-death action last year.

After the refiled lawsuit was put in place, GM moved to dismiss the case by motion. The Georgia judge presiding denied the motion. In fact, the presiding judge ordered that General Motors begin the discovery process by producing written materials and documents that had been requested by the Melton family attorneys. In addition, General Motors will be subject to written discovery by depositions to be taken of GM personnel as the case moves along.

Continue reading

Brooke Melton, 29, died allegedly because of the General Motors’ ignition switch flaw. Her case had been pending for a period of time when it was settled by General Motors in October 2013. The settlement was reached before General Motors was found to have been downplaying and otherwise concealing the ignition switch problems from consumers and lawyers involved in these tragic cases.

Although the Melton case was settled, the Melton family lawyers want to reopen the case and show that General Motors was guilty of fraudulent concealment regarding the switch problem. If the Meltons are successful in reopening this case, other settled injury or death cases arising from the ignition switch defect may be reopened for further consideration.

Today the lawsuits or claims management of the many ignition switch injury cases are being handled by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, whose group has settled hundreds of the GM death and injury claims from crashes that were caused by the ignition switch defect.

Continue reading

A Philadelphia jury entered a verdict of $55 million in damages after nine days of trial testimony in favor of Carlos Martinez who suffered paralysis in a car crash when his Honda SUV rolled over. Martinez’s head hit the roof of the vehicle in the rollover. There was evidence revealed during the discovery process that showed that Honda had determined that a seat-belted driver would strike his or her head on the roof in a rollover crash. The Honda vehicle, an Integra SUV, was not further tested by Honda to resolve that defect to protect drivers and passengers in rollover incidences.

The lawyer representing Martinez maintained that the injuries suffered could have been avoided by a safer design of the seat belt that was already in existence. It is hopeful that this verdict would send a message to Honda that it must correct the defect to the seat belt in this Honda vehicle.

The jury’s verdict of $55 million included $25 million for past and future damages, $14.6 million for medical expenses and $15 million that was assigned for the benefit of Martinez’s wife for loss of consortium.

Continue reading

General Motors has been accused in the deaths of at least 13 individuals because of its deliberate concealment of a defect linked to the faulty ignition switch in more than 2.59 million vehicles. Some lawyers have revived lawsuits because of injuries or deaths as a result of the recalled GM vehicles. It has been reported that GM is concerned about punitive damages. In one case that was settled in September for $5 million, an adviser warned GM of a “substantial adverse verdict” if a jury learned about the fact that GM knew about the defect for almost a decade before it acknowledged the problem.

In addition, GM should be concerned about the cost-cutting features related to the ignition switch. If these cases were to go to a jury, the jurors would learn that the ignition switch problems that have been highlighted by some reports, articles and now lawsuits could have been avoided by a repair that would have cost the company an incredibly small amount, perhaps less than $1 per vehicle. The repair work would have avoided all of these accidents, injuries and deaths.

The delay in acknowledging the deadly ignition switch defect would show a jury how indifferent the company was to the safety of vehicle owners and their passengers. In fact, GM may have been able to fix the ignition switch defect for as little as 57 cents per vehicle. Because of that fact, it goes without saying that lawyers will highlight the fact that such a little bit of money to repair the ignition switch would have avoided the many traumatic deaths and injuries suffered by vehicle owners and occupants, if not for GM’s focus on profits over people.

Continue reading