Recently, a jury in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana returned a defense verdict for an automobile manufacturer rejecting plaintiff’s claim that a manufacturing defect in a vehicle’s steering system caused the fatal crash that gave rise to the lawsuit. Keith W. McDaniel and Quincy T. Crochet of McCranie, Sistrunk, Anzelmo, Hardy, McDaniel & Welch, LLC represented the automobile manufacturer.
The single vehicle crash occurred in the median of westbound I-10 in south Louisiana. As the vehicle traveled in the inside lane of travel, it moved to the right into the outside lane of travel forcing a motorist to move onto the shoulder to avoid a collision with it. The driver of the vehicle then moved to the left and drove off the left side of the interstate at a high rate of speed. After leaving the roadway, the vehicle struck a tree head-on, triggering the Event Data Recorder (“EDR”) and deployment of the airbags. That impact also redirected the vehicle so that it became airborne and crashed into another tree while rolling passenger side leading. First responders observed no signs of life, and the coroner pronounced the driver dead at the scene.
Plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified that EDR data indicated that the vehicle’s driver attempted right steer inputs while the vehicle continued its leftward travel motion. According to him, these right steer inputs should have changed the vehicle’s path of travel, allowing the driver to avoid the tree impact. Experts for the defense countered this testimony with evidence demonstrating that because of the speed of travel and the severity of leftward steering input, the vehicle lacked sufficient time and distance on an appropriate friction surface to correct its path of travel prior to striking the tree line. Additionally, based upon physical evidence found at the scene and on the remaining components of the vehicle, the experts demonstrated that the broken components plaintiff claimed evidenced a manufacturing defect, in fact, evidenced damage caused from the accident.
Plaintiff, the only surviving child of the driver sought more than $1.2 million dollars. The jury of 8 unanimously rejected her request and rendered a defense verdict in favor of the defense.