Weiss V. Mazda
(November 2010)

The Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal has upheld a grant of summary judgment for Mazda Motor of America, Inc. and Royal Oldsmobile Company, Inc. The opinion can be found at http://www.fifthcircuit.org/Opinions.aspx by searching for Case No. 10-CA-608.

Lance B. Williams and Quincy T. Crochet of McCranie, Sistrunk, Anzelmo, Hardy, McDaniel & Welch, LLC obtained the judgment for Mazda and Royal in March of 2010 in the case of Elizabeth L. Weiss and John Weiss v. Mazda Motor Corp, et al., in the 24th Judicial District for the Parish of Jefferson, Case No. 536-515. The plaintiffs filed the product liability action seeking damages against Mazda and Royal for injuries allegedly sustained when the airbag deployed after Elizabeth Weiss struck a parked vehicle in her 1994 Mazda MX3 in Metairie, Louisiana. The plaintiffs claimed that the impact was minor and at an offset angle and thus the airbags should not have deployed. They alleged that the supplemental restraint system was defective in design and for failure to provide adequate warnings. The summary judgment argued that plaintiffs had failed to develop any evidence to prove that the vehicle was defective pursuant to the Louisiana Product Liability Act, and absent expert support all claims should be dismissed. Judge William “Chuck” Credo, III, agreed and granted the defendants’ motion on March 30, 2010. In his written reasons, Judge Credo explained that “Mazda provided adequate warnings regarding the activation and any potential dangers associated with airbag deployment.”

The plaintiffs subsequently appealed the dismissal of their claim to the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. The Appellate Court determined that Mazda adequately warned the plaintiffs that the air bags could deploy in a frontal or near frontal accident of moderate impact, and that Mr. & Mrs. Weiss failed to produce any evidence that the subject accident resulted in less than a moderate impact. Thus, the plaintiffs were unable to establish proximate cause. In addition, the Fifth Circuit determined that the only proposed alternative warning presented by the plaintiffs’ counsel would be inapplicable to the subject accident. After noting that a plaintiff prosecuting a failure to warn claim cannot prevail based on a mere allegation of inadequacy, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the ruling of the trial court and upheld the summary judgment in favor of Mazda and Royal.