Kimberly Creel v. Ford Motor Company
(July 2009)

Keith W. McDaniel, Lance B. Williams, and Quincy T. Crochet prevailed on a Motion for Summary Judgment, which was granted in favor of Ford Motor Company. The single-vehicle accident at issue occurred in 1998, but plaintiff did not file a lawsuit until more than two-and-a-half years later. The Court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the doctrine of contra non valentem should apply, and dismissed her claims as prescribed pursuant to Louisiana’s one year liberative prescriptive period. Kimberly Creel v. Bridgestone-Firestone, Inc., et al., 2009 WL 2044264 (S.D. Ind. 7/8/2009).

Plaintiff, Kimberly Creel, was operating her 1991 Ford Explorer on August 27, 1998, in Louisiana while traveling to Texas. She alleged that a tire on the vehicle failed, causing her to lose control of the vehicle and subsequently roll over. On May 10, 2001, nearly three years after the accident, Creel joined a multi-plaintiff action filed in Jefferson County, Mississippi. After nearly six years of litigation, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that Mississippi lacked jurisdiction over Creel’s claims, and her case was dismissed. Creel v. Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC, et al., 950 So. 2d 1024 (Miss. 2007).

Creel then initiated a new lawsuit in the 26th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Webster on April 10, 2007, nearly nine years after the accident. The matter was removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, and was then transferred to the Bridgestone/Firestone Multi-District Litigation pending in the Southern District of Indiana. Ford subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that Creel’s claims were prescribed, or time-barred, under Louisiana’s one year liberative prescription period. Creel argued in opposition that contra non valentem applied.

However, after reviewing the evidence, the Court concluded that it is “clear that Plaintiff failed to take the necessary steps to determine the cause of the tire failure and the resultant accident and her injuries. . .” The Court noted that the police report provided that the vehicle suffered a “blow out”, that plaintiff testified she informed the investigating officer that the vehicle suffered a blown tire, that plaintiff was told by the police officer and witnesses that the accident was not her fault, that the plaintiff believed the tire failure caused her to lose control of the Explorer, and that she knew who manufactured her vehicle and tire. Accordingly, the Court held that Creel had sufficient information to provide a basis for a lawsuit or further investigation following the accident, and rejected the proposed application of contra non valentem.