IN THE NEWS


KIA ASKS TEXAS JUSTICES FOR REDO ON AIRBAG DEFECT OPINION

Article 

General Motors LLC (GM) announced on February 10, 2014 that they are recalling certain model year 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, and 2007 Pontiac G5 vehicles. Two weeks later, GM increased the recall to include an additional 748,024 model year 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Solstice vehicles and 2003-2007 Saturn Ion vehicles and 2007 Saturn Sky vehicles. In these models, the weight on the key ring and/or road conditions or some other jarring event may cause the ignition switch to move out of the run position, turning off the engine.

Article   Recall


TOYOTA NEAR $1B SETTLEMENT OF CRIMINAL PROBE INTO UNINTENDED ACCELERATION CLAIMS, REPORT SAYS

Article


ACCORDING TO NHTSA, HONDA (AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO.) IS RECALLING CERTAIN 2007-2008 HONDA ODYSSEYS, BECAUSE THE VEHICLE MAY SUDDENLY AND UNEXPECTEDLY BRAKE HARD, WITHOUT ILLUMINATING THE BRAKE LIGHTS, INCREASING THE RISK OF A CRASH FROM BEHIND. 

See NHTSA Campaign No. 13V500 for more information.


GENERAL MOTORS IS RECALLING CERTAIN 2013 AND 2014 CHEVROLET SONIC VEHICLES BECAUSE THE FRONT FUEL TANK STRAP BRACKET MAY SEPARATE FROM THE VEHICLE.  NHTSA REPORTS THAT SUCH A FAILURE MAY CAUSE A FUEL LEAK, WHICH MAY RESULT IN A FIRE. 

For more information, see NHTSA Campaign No. 13V464.


CERTAIN 2014 NISSAN PATHFINDERS ARE BEING RECALLED BECAUSE THE INSTRUMENT PANEL TEAR SEAM ON THE PASSENGER FRONTAL AIR BAG WAS INCORRECTLY CUT ON THE BACK SIDE OF THE INSTRUMENT PANEL, WHICH COULD CAUSE THE AIR BAG NOT TO DEPLOY PROPERLY. 

More information may be found at NHTSA Campaign No. 13V456.


TOYOTA RECALLS 2012 AND 2013 CAMRYS, VENZAS AND AVALONS FOR THE RISK
OF UNEXPECTED AIRBAG DEPLOYMENT.
Autoweek Article    Safecar.gov Article



FMCSA DECLARES LAREDO, TEXAS, TRUCKING COMPANY AN IMMINENT HAZARD
TO PUBLIC SAFETY, ORDERS SHUT DOWN
Article


NHTSA ADOPTS NEW SIDE-IMPACT EJECTION MITIGATION STANDARDS FOR AUTOMOBILE SAFETY.
Details


HONDA (AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO.) IS RECALLING CERTAIN MODEL
YEAR 2003 AND 2004 ODYSSEY AND MODEL YEAR 2003 ACURA MDX VEHICLES.
A component in the air bag control module may fail causing the front air bags, side curtain air bags, and/or seatbelt pretensioners to deploy inadvertently while the vehicle is being operated which may increase the risk of injury and the possibility of a vehicle crash. For further information, see NHTSA Campaign No. 13V412000.
Article


DAIMLER TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA LLC (DTNA) IS RECALLING CERTAIN MODEL YEAR 2009-2014
WESTERN STAR 4900 VEHICLES MANUFACTURED MAY 27, 2008, THROUGH MARCH 22, 2013.
A potential misalignment of a clearance hole in the B-pillar reinforcement may affect the performance of the seatbelt D-ring anchorage point. In the event of a crash, the seatbelt may not properly restrain the occupant, increasing the risk of injury. For additional information, see NHTSA Campaign No.13V401000.
Article


HONDA MINIVANS, SUVS RECALLED OVER POSSIBLE FAULTY AIR BAGS
Article



U.S. TELLS AUTOMAKERS TO MAKE RECALL INFORMATION EASIER TO FIND
Article


CHRYSLER RECALL
Chrysler is recalling certain model year 2013 Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, and RAM C/V Tradesman vehicles manufactured May 10, 2012, through June 7, 2013. A software error may result in the opposite side airbags deploying from the collision point. In the event of a crash, the wrong side airbags could deploy leaving the occupant with no airbag protection at the point of impact, increasing the risk of injury.
Article


CHRYSLER BACKS DOWN, AGREES TO RECALL 2.7 MILLION OLDER-MODEL JEEPS

NBC Video


BMW RECALLS 2002-2003 3-SERIES AND M3 VEHICLES BECAUSE THE FRONT PASSENGER SIDE AIRBAGS MAY NOT INFLATE CORRECTLY.

2013 BMW Recall

General Motors to conduct a safety related recall for certain 2012-2013 model year Buick LaCrosse and Regal, and 2013 model year Chevrolet Malibu Eco vehicles, equipped with eAssist.
General Motors has decided that a defect, which relates to motor vehicle safety, exists in certain 2012-2013 model year Buick LaCrosse and Regal, and 2013 model year Chevrolet Malibu Eco vehicles, equipped with eAssist. Some of these vehicles have a condition in which the Generator Control Module (GCM) may not function properly. This could cause a gradual loss of battery charge and the illumination of the malfunction indicator light. If these warnings are ignored, eventually, the engine will stall and/or the vehicle will not start. In addition, there may be a burning or melting odor, smoke, and possibly a fire in the trunk.

2013 May GM Safety Recall Bulletin 13136
  2012-2013 Buick LaCrosse & Regal Recall


CHRYSLER RECALLING 630,000 SUVS, JEEPS WORLDWIDE

Complete Article



VIRGINIA TECH STAR RATINGS FOR FOOTBALL HELMETS.

Complete Article


CHRYSLER RECALLS 300,000 JEEPS, RAMS FOR ISSUES INCLUDING ROLL-AWAYS

Complete Article


Japanese automakers, including Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mazda are recalling 3.4 million vehicles manufactured between November 2000 and March 2004 for defective passenger side airbag. It is reported that the airbag may not inflate correctly, a risk of fires starting or of passengers being injured by metal fragments.

Complete Article



OTHER SIMILAR INCIDENTS: A ROADMAP TO VICTORY OR REVERSAL ON APPEAL

Complete Article



Nissan recalls certain 2013 Altima, LEAF, Pathfinder, Sentra, and Infiniti JX35 vehicles because the sensors within the passenger Occupant Detection System (ODS) may have been manufactured out of specification. This may cause the system to malfunction and permanently suppress the passenger airbag.

Complete Article


HONDA RECALLS AIRBAGS
Complete Article

NHTSA upgrades Ford unintendedacceleration probe
Angela Greiling Keane and Jeff Plungis, Automotive News, December 14, 2012
Complete Article

SAFETY IS NOT AN OPTION
By The Brown Law Firm
Complete Article

FORD RECALLS 2011-2013 FIESTAS
http://www.freep.com/article/20121016/BUSINESS01/121016008/Ford-recalls-Fiesta-subcompact-for-air-bag-problem

Hart: Texas takes tort reform too far
http://www.chron.com/news/kilday-hart/article/Hart-Texas-takes-tort-reform-too-far-3777018.php

KIA AIRBAG RECALL
http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/05/kia-recalls-73000-rio-models-for-air-bag-malfunction-hazard/


TRENDSETTER CONSTRUCTION AND NATHAN RICHARDSON AGREE TO PAY $10,500,000.00
TO SETTLE WRONGFUL DEATH CASE.

Settlement Announcement

NHTSA proposes electronic stability control systems
to prevent deadly bus, truck rollovers

By Associated Press, Published: May 16, 2012
View Article    


Enterprise Rent-A-Car: Stop opposing a law prohibiting
companies from renting out recalled cars


View Article



EXPONENT'S EVIDENCE HASN'T ALWAYS PROVEN PERSUASIVE
5/19/2010 9:42 PM
Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY

View Article


BUCKLE UP - LIFE IS PRECIOUS

Watch Video


SEAT BELTS, AIRBAGS, AND OTHER LIFESAVERS
The 5 most important automotive safety technologies of all time.

MSN Auto Article


KIA’S OWN “OSIs” SNAG THEM ON APPEAL
A Texas appeals court refused to overturn Kia Motors Corp.’s portion of a $4.4 million product liability judgment, ruling that a defective airbag in a Kia Spectra had led to the plaintiff’s death in a 2002 head-on collision.

Details


KIA MOTORS CORPORATION AND KIA MOTORS, AMERICA, INC
JUDGMENT (PDF)      AFFIRM AND OPINION (PDF)


GM Recalling 10,000 2011 Trucks & SUVs
By Thomas P. Flanagan - Detroit News Business Briefs

Washington - General Motors Co. said Friday it is recalling more than 10,000 trucks and SUVs worldwide to address two problems.

GM said it is recalling 9,215 2011 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon vehicles that could roll away when shifted into park, because of a faulty part produced in China.

GM dealers will install new automatic transmission adjustment clips. In the second issue, GM is recalling 891 SUVs and trucks for steering problems, including 739 in the U.S.

The recall includes some 2011 Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Sierra vehicles.

From The Detroit  News: http://detnews.com/article/20110702/BIZ/107020327/GM-recalling-10-000-trucks-and-SUVs#ixzz1QvoFRfIe


Tests Prove Fuel Fire Risk of Older Jeep Grand Cherokees, Safety Group Says
By Christine Young on June 10, 2011 - ABC NEWS

The Center for Auto Safety, citing recent crash tests, has renewed its demand for a government recall of 2.2 million Jeep Grand Cherokees from model years 1993 through 2004, contending that a faulty fuel-tank design can cause the tank to rupture and burst into flames.

In a recall petition to the National Highway Transportation Administration, the advocacy group said the vehicles have been involved in 64 deaths in 44 crashes where fire was “the most harmful factor.” The placement of the fuel tank behind the rear axle makes it more vulnerable to rupture in some kinds of crashes, the center says.

“You can have the tank itself rupture, you can have the filler hoses pull off as they did in some of our crash tests, and it’s just a terrible design,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the auto safety group, in an interview with the ABC News affiliate in Raleigh, N.C. “This is the most dangerous vehicle on the road today, and we want it recalled.”

The petition cited the case of Susan Kline, a New Jersey mother who was driving a 1996 Grand Cherokee when it was rear-ended by a Toyota SUV. The Jeep’s doors jammed on impact, and Kline was unable to escape the burning vehicle.
“Imagine someone you’ve been with, that you’ve loved dearly for 33 years, being burned to death,” Kline’s husband, Tom Kline, told ABC.

The design is so bad that Chrysler frequently settles lawsuits with confidentiality agreements, the petition said.

A possible recall 2.2 million Jeep Grand Cherokees, model years 1993 through 2004
Chrysler disputed the center’s findings, telling ABC that the vehicle meets the federal standard for fuel system safety, and that the group’s crash test was “three times as severe” as the government test.
It insisted that rear impacts resulting in fires are “extremely rare”  and “occur no more often” in the older Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles than in similar vehicles.

Chrysler changed the Cherokee’s design in 2005, moving the fuel tank in front of the rear axle–but said it did so to expand cargo space, not to improve safety, according to ABC.
Since the redesign, there has been only one fatal fire crash in the Grand Cherokee, and the fuel tank design did not play a role in the deaths, the petition said.

The NHTSA is investigating the vehicle’s safety, but declined to comment on the crash test, according to ABC.


dying in a crash
Status Report: Vol. 46, No. 5, June 9, 2011
Details


WHAT WOULD CARS BE LIKE WITHOUT THE CIVIL JUSTICE SYSTEM?
Details


Lee Brown has been named one of the “Best Lawyers in Dallas 2011”
by D Magazine
An independent panel of 372 lawyers has compiled a list of the best lawyers in Dallas for D Magazine.
Lee Brown has been included in the list that will be published by D Magazine in June of 2011.


EJECTION MITIGATION RULE

Read More



IIHS CONFIRMS THAT SIDE AIRBAGS ARE REDUCING THE RISK OF FATALITIES

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (“IIHS”) announced on December 22, 2010 that drivers of vehicles that do poorly in the Institute’s side impact crash tests are three times as likely to die in real world left-side crashes than drivers of vehicles that perform well. “This was our first look at how our ratings correlate with actual crash data since we started side tests in 2003, and the numbers confirm that these are meaningful ratings,” says Institute chief research officer, David Zuby. “Vehicles with good side ratings provide occupants with far more protection than vehicles that do poorly in our test.”

Status Report


DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS DENIES QUALITY SAFETY SYSTEMS COMPANY’S MANDAMUS PETITION

On October 26, 2010, the Dallas Court of Appeals rejected Canadian seat belt manufacturer Quality Safety Systems Co.’s (QSS) mandamus petition attempting to change more than twenty years of Texas law. QSS unsuccessfully attempted to forbid injured consumers from sharing documents with similarly-situated injured consumers, even if they agree to keep the documents confidential – a long-standing practice permitted by the Texas Supreme Court and federal courts around the country to ensure defendant manufacturers permit full and fair discovery, particularly in defective product cases.

Concurring Opinion   -   Memoandum Opinion   -    Order


DEFECT CLAIMS AGAINST BIG AUTOMAKERS HAVE RISEN,
BUT WINNING HEFTY SETTLEMENTS AN UPHILL BATTLE


Monday, August 23, 2010
By ERIC TORBENSON / The Dallas Morning News etorbenson@dallasnews.com

With Toyota Motor Co. making grim headlines over sudden acceleration of its cars and with nearly 20 million vehicles recalled this year, it would seem to be high season for auto defect lawyers.

Although Toyota's struggles have brought more than 200 new suits nationally and "given a breath of fresh air" to the specialty, according to Dallas attorney Todd Tracy, it's not a smooth road to easy wins or hefty settlements with automakers.

The hits to Toyota's reputation plus the financial struggles of General Motors Co. may have primed juries to award plaintiffs in these kinds of cases, but some attorneys say the carmakers are using a "scorched earth" approach to handling the suits by never settling cases and exhausting every appeal. That tactical change, plus friendlier appeals courts, have emboldened the companies.

"Cases that these companies used to settle are now being litigated further and in a more onerous manner than I've seen in my entire career," said Dallas attorney Lee Brown, whose Brown Law Firm specializes in auto defect claims. "They've taken a hard line to say they'll outspend and outlast anybody who wants to challenge them."

In states such as Texas, where the mood toward plaintiff suits has soured, automakers may see little downside in fighting cases to the bitter end.

Complete Article


The Brown Law Firm and other lawyers for consumers injured by foreign auto manufacturers’ products recently presented evidence to Congress in an effort to curb abuses by foreign manufacturers attempting to evade responsibility for injuries to American consumers. Foreign manufacturers, including Toyota, often claim U.S. courts cannot exercise jurisdiction over them, or they try to force injured consumers to use expensive, unreliable and time-consuming methods to serve them overseas, despite the fact they distribute their products – which injure Americans – here in the United States. [LINK TO OUR TOYOTA MANDAMUS ORDER AND ACCELERATED APPEAL ORDER] The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection met on June 30, 2010, to debate and mark up the “Foreign Manufacturer Legal Accountability Act of 2010,” designed to level the playing field and hold foreign manufacturers responsible to the same extent as domestic auto manufacturers. The Brown Law Firm urges Congress to help them hold foreign auto manufacturers accountable for the products they sell here that harm our fellow citizens.


DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS DISMISSES TOYOTA'S ACCELERATED APPEAL

Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) filed an accelerated appeal, claiming the trial court had no personal jurisdiction over it due to Plaintiffs' alleged failure to properly serve TMC in accordance with the Hague Convention. Apparently recognizing that Texas law does not allow accelerated or interlocutory appeals where the only complaint is regarding the manner of service, TMC failed to timely file its brief and the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal on April 28, 2010. Click here to review the Judgement


DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS REJECTS TOYOTA'S MANDAMUS

After filing an unsuccessful accelerated appeal, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) sought mandamus relief from the Dallas Court of Appeals, claiming the trial court improperly refused to quash Plaintiffs' service of process on TMC. TMC claimed that Plaintiffs failed to properly serve it under the Hague Convention because Plaintiffs served the Texas Secretary of State as TMC's agent for service of process, and also served TMC directly via mail, as expressly permitted by Article 10(a) of the Hague Convention. After extensive briefing, the Dallas Court of Appeals summarily denied TMC's request for mandamus relief on May 25, 2010. Click here to review the Order


HAWAI'I FEDERAL COURT REJECTS FORD'S FEDERAL PREEMPTION DEFENSE
AND FINDS SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OF GROSS NEGLIGENCE AGAINST FORD


On February 12, 2010, the United States District Court for the District of Hawai'i rejected Ford Motor Company's argument that any claim of a person injured or killed as a result of Ford's failure to equip a vehicle with a side impact airbag is preempted by federal law. (Click here to review the order.) On February 17, 2010, the Hawai'i federal court also denied Ford's motion claiming that there was insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that Ford was grossly negligent in its failure to properly design and equip the Ford Focus. (Click here to review the order.) Mark Durham was killed and his daughter was seriously injured when the Ford Focus he had rented on vacation in Hawai'i was struck on the driver's side by an SUV. The Focus, Ford's smallest car, was not equipped with a side impact airbag as standard equipment, even though Ford made side impact airbags standard on the Focus in Europe. The Brown Law firm brought suit against Ford and others claiming that the 2004 Ford Focus is defective and unreasonably dangerous in side impacts, particularly in ones where larger, heavier SUVs strike compact vehicles like the Focus. For more information please contact Lee Brown at 214/624-3400, lbrown@leebrownlaw.com.

SKIMMING THE SURFACE OF SAFETY
By Lee Brown and Amanda Morse

VIEW FULL ARTICLE


TOYOTA HID DEFECT IN VIOLATION OF LAW, U.S. says
DOT's LaHood proposes maximum $16.4 million penalty

Bloomberg News
Automotive News -- April 5, 2010 - 4:26 pm ET
UPDATED: 4/6/10 12:01 am ET
Photo credit: Reuters

LaHood: "We now have proof that Toyota failed to live
up to its legal obligations."

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. “knowingly hid a dangerous defect” that caused its vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly, the U.S. said, for the first time accusing the world's largest automaker of breaking the law.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed a record civil penalty of $16.4 million, the most the government can impose. The fine recommended Monday escalates the confrontation between Toyota and LaHood, who initially praised the carmaker for its handling of recalls the company attributed to faulty accelerator pedals.

The fine was announced the week after Toyota reported U.S. sales rose 41 percent in March with the help of no-interest loans and discount leases, signaling the company may be recovering from recalls of about more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for flaws that may cause unintended acceleration..

The Transportation Department's action showed “safety matters and they're going to be tough as nails,” Joan Claybrook, a former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in an interview. “That's very appropriate. They caught Toyota red-handed.”

The Japanese automaker waited at least four months before telling the agency that accelerator pedals might stick, LaHood said in a statement. Companies have five business days to report safety defects, the agency said.

`We now have proof'

“We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations,” LaHood said in the statement. “Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families.”

Toyota hadn't received NHTSA's letter on the fine, according to an e-mailed statement Monday from the company's North American sales unit.

“We have already taken a number of important steps to improve our communications with regulators and customers on safety-related matters as part of our strengthened overall commitment to quality assurance,” the company said, without saying whether it will exercise its right to dispute the fine.

LaHood has increasingly faulted Toyota's response since Jan. 28, when he said he had “no criticism” of the company and Toyota “did what they're supposed to do.”

Toyota in January recalled about 2.3 million U.S. cars and trucks for sticky accelerator pedals.

The penalty could “very possibly” be the first of multiple fines, said Claybrook, who is former president of Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group.

NHTSA cited documents obtained from Toyota in saying the company knew about the pedal defect since at least Sept. 29.

“NHTSA wants to make it clear that it was Toyota that was at fault and the agency did its best within the system,” said Alan Baum, an auto industry analyst at Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He said Toyota probably won't contest the fine, “since they've essentially said they screwed up.”

‘Firepower to attorneys'

At a February congressional hearing, Toyota's U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz told lawmakers “we failed to promptly analyze and respond to information emerging from Europe and in the United States” about the sticky pedals.

Toyota has two weeks to accept or contest the proposed fine, Olivia Alair, a Transportation Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. If Toyota contests the penalty and a settlement isn't reached, “it would go to court,” she said.

“One of the biggest reasons to fight the fine would be to defend themselves from the language used by the Department of Transportation,” Ed Kim, an industry analyst for forecaster AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, California, said in an interview. “That would seem to provide some firepower to attorneys that are suing the company.”

NHTSA's largest civil penalty was $1 million against General Motors in 2004 to settle charges that the company failed to conduct a timely recall involving windshield-wiper failures in about 581,000 vehicles.

‘Free Publicity'

“Both industry and government failed the test of putting the safety of America's drivers first” in the Toyota recalls, Representative Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, one of three panels that has held hearings on Toyota actions, said in a statement Monday.

The proposed NHTSA fine may help consumers suing Toyota over sudden acceleration, said Houston attorney W. Mark Lanier, who has filed class-action and individual lawsuits related to the claims.

“Toyota is spending millions of dollars on public relations right now to sway consumers or a potential jury pool,” Lanier said in a phone interview. The fine “is free publicity that counters Toyota.” The penalty probably couldn't be introduced in court because “it's not like a criminal finding in that there was due process,” he said.

Toyota is facing at least 177 consumer and shareholder lawsuits seeking class-action status and at least 56 suits claiming personal injuries or deaths caused by sudden acceleration incidents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Lanier has filed two personal injury cases and is considering filing about 100 others, including a dozen involving deaths, he said.


TOYOTA'S SAFETY ISSUES DRAW LAWYERS' FOCUS

By NORM ALSTER, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
With recalls, halted sales and new revelations almost daily, it may seem that things can't get any worse for Toyota (TM) . But they will.

Plaintiffs' attorneys are preparing a rash of lawsuits claiming drivers were killed or seriously injured in accidents triggered by sudden acceleration of Toyota vehicles.

The cases involve arguments challenging Toyota's response to unintended acceleration issues — as well as the adequacy of the fixes it has offered. The attorneys will also claim that the problems extend to popular vehicle models and model years not covered by Toyota's already-sweeping recalls.

Only a few cases have been filed so far. But leading auto trial lawyers tell IBD they are in the final stages of preparing cases they will soon take to court.

"Toyota's lack of engineering discipline and rush to become the world's largest vehicle manufacturer will end up costing it billions of dollars in sales, recalls and lawsuits," said E. Todd Tracy, a Dallas attorney with a long history in auto liability cases.

Each case will be different, of course, but several attorneys will argue that Toyota has lagged in addressing the issue of sudden unintended acceleration. And they are skeptical that the automaker's recent fix — which involves adding a part to the gas pedal to prevent sticking — solves the problem.

"This is a Band-Aid on a large hemorrhage," said Tracy.

This new legal front will complicate the challenge for the hobbled U.S. auto market kingpin as it wrestles with safety issues and tries to restore its tarnished brand.

A hint to the legal strategy comes from Tracy.

"Toyota has known about these problems since 1999," he claimed. He is looking at three potential cases right now. Each involves either death or severe injury. He says he is "getting ready to file" his first suit, probably within two weeks.

Don Slavik, an attorney with the Milwaukee firm of Habush, Habush & Rottier, has already filed a suit in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. The suit claims Anne Ezal died when the 2006 Camry she was riding in suddenly accelerated as her husband tried to park the vehicle. Slavik contends the vehicle jumped the curb, crashed through a fence and flew over a cliff into the Pacific Ocean.

Toyota, in a court filing, alleges the Ezal vehicle "was misused or improperly maintained," causing or contributing to the "alleged incident..."

Mechanical Or Electrical?

The Slavik case brings front and center a claim that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun to probe: whether an electronic glitch not addressed by Toyota's mechanical fix lurks in millions of its vehicles.

Slavik contends the problem lies in Toyota's failure to use brake override systems that could prevent electronic glitches.

Dallas attorney Lee Brown is making a similar case. After studying complaints filed with the NHTSA, "I think there is an electronic problem," he said. "If you look at the nature of the complaints, the facts are more aligned with an electronic explanation." He is looking at filing a number of potential lawsuits.

Toyota insists the problem is not electronic.

"I can assure you the defect we have identified is mechanical," said company spokesman John Hanson. "We have identified no electronic problem related to the sticking- pedal problem. After many years of exhaustive testing, we have found no evidence of electronic problems with our electronic throttle controls that would have led to unwanted acceleration."

Toyota does plan to offer brake overrides on all models starting in 2011. The NHTSA says it's "looking into" making such systems standard.

Plaintiffs' attorneys aim to sharply expand the problem far beyond the cars recalled by Toyota, which mostly involve 2009-10 models. Slavik says sudden acceleration complaints from 2002-06 Toyota Camrys outnumber those of any other model or range of years.

Toyota acknowledges acceleration complaints hailing back to 2002. Safety Research & Strategies, a research and advocacy firm, lists 26 deaths as potentially linked.

NHTSA has received "in excess of 1,000 complaints" of sudden unintended acceleration in various Toyota models.

Toyota has ordered a massive recall and halted sales of eight models, including the flagship Camry and Corolla. These eight models account for 58% of Toyota sales, Morgan Stanley analyst Noriaki Hirakata wrote in a Jan. 27 report.

But attorneys are eyeing complaints about other vehicles. Tracy, for one, claims unintended acceleration problems also lie in the high-profit Lexus ES 350 and the Prius hybrid, already the focus of braking issues. Toyota has said it is working on solving Prius' brake problem.


FIRST TIME INSTITUTE RATES SMALL PICKUPS FOR ROLLOVER PROTECTION;
ONLY ONE MODEL RATES GOOD IN TEST THAT ASSURES STRENGTH OF ROOF

ARLINGTON, VA — The Nissan Frontier has the strongest roof and the Chevrolet Colorado the weakest among 5 small pickup trucks, all 2010 models, that recently were tested for rollover protection by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Frontier, also sold as the Suzuki Equator, is the only pickup in the group to earn the highest rating of good. The Ford Ranger is rated acceptable while the Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tacoma, and Colorado (also sold as the GMC Canyon) earn the second lowest rating of marginal.

The rating system is based on Institute research showing that occupants in rollover crashes benefit from stronger roofs. Vehicles rated good must have roofs that are more than twice as strong as the minimum required under the current federal safety standard. The ratings, products of the Institute's new roof strength testing program, add to consumer information tests that rate vehicles' front, side, and rear crashworthiness. The rollover test is designed to help consumers pick vehicles that will protect them the best in one of the most serious kinds of crashes.

"As a group, small pickups aren't performing as well as small cars or small SUVs in all of the
Institute's safety tests.

None of the ones we tested is a top-notch performer across the board. In fact, no small pickup earns our Top Safety Pick award," says Institute senior vice president David Zuby. The Frontier came close to winning the 2010 award, but it's rated acceptable instead of good for protection against neck injury in rear crashes. To earn Top Safety Pick, a vehicle has to earn good ratings for protection in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes. It also has to have electronic stability control.

Nearly 10,000 people a year are killed in rollovers. When vehicles roll, their roofs hit the ground, deform, and crush. Stronger roofs crush less, reducing the risk of injury from contact with the roof itself. Stronger roofs also can prevent people, especially those who aren't using safety belts, from being ejected through windows, windshields, or doors that have broken or opened because the roof deformed. Roofs that don't collapse help keep people inside vehicles when they roll.

Rollovers are much more common for SUVs and pickup trucks than for cars. In 2008 almost half (47 percent) of all pickup occupants killed in crashes were in trucks that rolled over. This compares with 58 percent of deaths in SUVs and 25 percent in cars.

The best occupant protection is to keep vehicles from rolling in the first place. Electronic stability control is significantly reducing rollovers, especially fatal single-vehicle ones. When vehicles roll, side curtain airbags help protect people. Safety belt use is essential.

In the Institute's roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against 1 corner of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a good rating, a roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle's weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. For an acceptable rating, the minimum strength-to-weight ratio required is 3.25. A marginal rating value is 2.5, and anything lower than that is poor.

The Nissan Frontier withstood a force of just over 4 times its weight. This compares with 2.9 times weight for the Colorado.

A strength-to-weight ratio of 4 reflects an estimated 50 percent reduction in serious or fatal injury risk in single-vehicle rollover crashes, compared with the current federal standard of 1.5.

In April 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ended numerous delays by unveiling a new rule that raises the federal roof strength requirement, currently a strength-to-weight ratio of 1.5, to 3 for vehicles with weight ratings up to 6,000 pounds. Roofs on vehicles with weight ratings 6,000 to 10,000 pounds will be required to withstand a force equal to 1.5 times their unloaded weight, whereas these vehicles' roofs are not regulated under the old standard.

Another requirement is that roofs maintain sufficient headroom during testing. For the first time, the government will require the same performance on both sides of a roof when tested sequentially. Phase-in begins in September 2012, and all vehicles must comply by September 2016.

"The long phase-in of the new standard means roofs won't have to get stronger right away," Zuby points out, "so we plan to continue rating vehicle roof strength for the foreseeable future. We want to reward manufacturers who are ahead of their competition for protecting people in rollovers."

In addition to the new roof strength ratings, the Institute conducted side tests of small pickup truck models. Earning good ratings are the Frontier, with standard front and rear head curtain airbags plus front torso airbags. Also earning good ratings are the Ranger, with standard front-seat mounted combination head and torso airbags, and the Tacoma, which the Institute tested in 2008.

In contrast, the Colorado is rated poor for occupant protection in side crashes. It's equipped with standard curtain side airbags but lacks additional airbags designed to protect a driver's torso.

The Colorado's poor structure, along with poor protection for the driver dummy's chest and pelvis, contributed to its poor rating overall. Plus the dummy's head came close to moving around the curtain airbag during the impact by the intruding barrier.

"A slightly different crash configuration could have resulted in a direct hit from the barrier on the dummy's head," Zuby explains.

The test of the Dakota produced a different problem. Its optional curtain side airbags failed to deploy. This is the first time this has happened in an Institute side test.

Chrysler engineers say they've identified a problem with the computer program algorithm that calculates when to fire the airbags and are working on a remedy. When the computer program is fixed, the Institute will conduct another test of the Dakota and publish the results.

Zuby notes that "the Dakota is the only 2010 small pickup the Institute tested that has optional rather than standard side airbags. Most of the auto industry pledged to get standard side airbags in every new passenger vehicle by now."

Chrysler was among 15 manufacturers who got together in 2003 and agreed on the first set of rules designed to reduce the risks for people in front and side crashes involving larger and heavier SUVs and pickup trucks. Although the compatibility agreement specified performance criteria and not features, the idea was to make safety improvements like installing side airbags in all passenger vehicles more quickly than would have been the case with a government regulation.

"Chrysler is the only manufacturer we know of that isn't living up to the spirit of the 2003 agreement,"
Zuby says.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of another pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on 2 instrumented SID-IIs dummies representing 5th percentile women, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact.


SOME PICKUPS PERFORM POORLY IN IIHS TESTS

Frontier tops, Colorado bottoms out;
Canadian Auto PressFebruary 12, 2010

It has long been known that certain minivan and truck body styles don't offer good crash protection.

While minivans have made significant gains in passenger protection, pickup trucks haven't, at least according to the latest release by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The IIHS tested five compact pickup trucks for both rollover and side-impact crashes recently, and the segment didn't fare well.

"As a group, small pickups aren't performing as well as small cars or small SUVs in all of the institute's safety tests," said David Zuby, IIHS's senior vice-president. "None of the ones we tested is a top-notch performer across the board."

Kudos do go to Nissan's Frontier for getting a "good" rating for rollover protection, and praise can go to Ford for its long-lived Ranger, which received an "acceptable" rating.

The Chevrolet Colorado (and we might as well throw its twin, GMC Canyon, into the mix too, even though it wasn't tested) only received a rating of "marginal," as did the mid-sized Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma.

The Tacoma, the segment's bestselling pickup truck, is only "marginal" in rollover protection, although it did better in side-impact crash tests, where it joined the Ranger and Frontier with a "good" rating.

The Colorado? It received the lowest possible score of "poor."

You might have noticed that the Dakota isn't mentioned above, and that's because its optional side airbags failed to deploy during testing.

According to Chrysler, it was a software problem, and it's working to remedy the situation, at which point the IIHS will retest the truck and give its stamp of approval, or disapproval.


IIHS Tests Kids' Booster Seats, Finds Many of them Lacking

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested 60 common booster seats, and found that only 15 of them provide good protection for children in all types of vehicles. The point of a booster seat is to make the car seat belts fit properly across a child's chest and hips, but many of the boosters caused the belts to sit too high -- endangering a child's neck or abdomen. 

Research shows that children 4-8 years old who ride in boosters are 45 percent less likely to sustain crash injuries than children restrained by vehicle safety belts alone. The IIHS tests, conducted with a crash-test dummy the size of a 6-year-old, illustrate that many popular models aren't as safe as they purport to be. Boosters were ranked as "Best Bets," "Good Bets," and "Not Recommended."

"Parents can't tell a good booster from a bad one just by comparing design features and price," says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. State laws increasingly require booster seats for children who have outgrown toddler car seats, but there's no federal rule governing how a booster should be designed.

A few just-released boosters didn't come to market in time for this round of evaluations, but the Institute will rate them soon and share results at iihs.org. The plan is to assess new models throughout the year, much like the Institute evaluates new vehicles for Top Safety Pick awards.

BEST BETS: Combi Dakota backless w/clip; Recaro Young Sport; Recaro Vivo; Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR; Evenflo Big Kid Amp backless w/clip; Eddie Bauer Auto Booster; Cosco Juvenile Pronto; Britax Frontier; Clek Oobr 

GOOD BETS: Combi Kobuk backless w/clip; Maxi-Cosi Rodi; Evenflo Symphony 65; Britax Parkway SG; Graco TurboBooster SafeSeat Wander; Graco TurboBooster SafeSeat Sachi

NOT RECOMMENDED: Harmony Secure Comfort Deluxe backless w/clip; Combi Kobuk; Evenflo Express; Eddie Bauer Deluxe; Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite; Evenflo Sightseer; Alpha Omega Elite; Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1; Safety 1st All-in-One; Alpha Omega Luxe Echelon; Alpha Omega

Note: Unless the booster name indicates it is a backless seat, all are highbacks. Go to iihs.org for the full list of model numbers and booster seat pictures. More information about child seats is available on Edmunds' Women and Family Car Guide and Car Safety Guide.

Posted by Joanne Helperin December 22, 2009, 11:00 AM


DALLAS’ BROWN LAW FIRM FILES FEDERAL COMPLAINT AGAINST KIA MOTORS CORP.
The goal is to force a recall of 2002 Kia Spectras, which could have defective air bags, lawyers say
By Jeff Bounds (Dallas Business Journal, December 11, 2009)

KiaMotors Corp. has been hit with a big jury verdict in a local wrongful-death case, and now the Dallas law firm that represented the victim’s family is seeking a recall of one of the carmaker’s models. After three years in court, family members of Andrea Ruiz were awarded a multimillion-dollar verdict. But their attorneys at Dallas’ Brown Law Firm say that because Kia is appealing, the Ruiz family may have to wait years before seeing any money. Meanwhile, Lee Brown, the firm’s managing partner, has filed a complaint with federal regulators seeking a recall of the 2002 Kia Spectra to fix an allegedly defective air bag system. The Brown Law Firm and the Ruiz family won’t have it easy in their battle with Kia. A Dallas judge threw out $2.5 million in punitive damages that the jury awarded, and Kia is seeking a retrial of the case.


JURY AWARDS $4.5 MILLION TO FAMILY OF AIRBAG VICTIM
On October 16, 2009, a Dallas jury awarded $4.5 million ($2 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages) to the family of Andrea Ruiz who had brought wrongful death claims against Harvey Ray Tomlin, Kia Motors Corporation, and Kia Motors America, Inc. In 2006, a GMC pickup operated by Mr. Tomlin crossed the centerline of the highway violently striking a 2002 Kia Spectra operated by Andrea Ruiz. Although Mrs. Ruiz was properly wearing her seat belt, her driver’s airbag did not deploy and she sustained fatal neck injuries. However, her daughter, Suzanna Ruiz, was seated in the front right passenger seat and did not have any injuries because her passenger airbag properly deployed in the crash. Plaintiffs brought negligence claims against Mr. Tomlin for causing the accident and negligence claims against the Kia Defendants for the failure of the driver airbag to deploy. Ruiz, et al v. Kia Motors Corporation, et al., No. 06-06281 Court: 95th District Court, Dallas County, Texas Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Lee Brown and Eric Porterfield of The Brown Law Firm and Mary Alice McLarty of The McLarty Firm, P.C. Defense Attorneys: Kurt Kern, Melissa A. Dorman, and Yesenia E. Cardenas-Colenso of Hartline, Dacus, Dreyer & Kern, L.L.P

NHTSA PROPOSES STURDIER SIDE AIRBAGS DO MORE DURING ROLLOVERS
EJECTION PREVENTION GOAL IS NEW

By Neil Roland (Automotive News, December 2, 2009 - 4:25 pm ET)

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration wants to require the vast majority of new cars and light trucks to have side airbags that are bigger, longer-inflating and more secure than those now used to prevent motorists from being ejected during rollovers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed new rules yesterday that would require nearly all vehicles less than 10,000 pounds to have the sturdier airbags in the first three rows of seats by 2017.

The side curtain airbags would have to cover more of the window, stay inflated longer and possibly be tethered to keep vehicle occupants inside during a rollover, the proposal says.

The proposal also would extend side airbag installation to all new cars and light trucks except for walk-in vans.

“Occupants have a much better chance of surviving a crash if they are not ejected from their vehicles,” the 53-page proposal says.

An average of 6,170 deaths and 5,270 serious injuries are caused each year by ejections through side windows, according to NHTSA.

The rules, if adopted, would save about 6.2 percent of these casualties, according to NHTSA data.

Motorists who aren’t wearing seat belts would derive most of the benefits from the new airbags, but 13 percent of occupants wearing belts also would benefit, NHTSA said.

Under the proposal, the electronic sensors that trigger the airbags during a crash or rollover would have to be improved.

The plan also asks whether side windows should be glazed in multiple layers to help prevent ejections.

NHTSA seeks public comment over the next 60 days before the administration makes a decision.

The proposal stems from a congressional mandate that also required stronger roofs, better door latches along with electronic devices to stabilize vehicles.

The plan would cost automakers about $34 a vehicle more than they already plan to spend on 2011 side airbags, for a total of $583 million industrywide, the agency said.

“We’re still reviewing the proposal, but given that safety is our highest priority, we share NHTSA’s concern for enhanced safety in all aspects of operating a vehicle,” said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

One question automakers will be asking, said Newton, is “whether the rules would require re-engineering, or would they facilitate what we’re already doing?”

Side airbags were standard or optional on 76 percent of 2008 vehicles, according to the alliance, a group of 11 domestic and foreign automakers.

But NHTSA said only 40 percent of the 2008 vehicles had side airbags that provide protection against an impact not involving a rollover.

Ford Motor Co. side airbags, introduced in 2002, inflate for six seconds, the proposal said, but most often stay open for just 0.1 seconds. General Motors Co.’s side airbags inflate for five seconds.

SUVs accounted for 27 percent of rollover deaths in 2007, according to NHTSA.

Click here to review Adobe PDF.


NHTSA HAS PUBLISHED A NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING
FOR A NEW FMVSS 226 TO REDUCE EJECTION IN SIDE IMPACTS.

It envisions compliance via side curtain air bags supplemented by improved laminated glazing, and proposes a compliance test involving an interior-side window impact device. The NPRM responds to a requirement in the SAFETEA act. Please see attached to view entire NPRM in pdf format.
Click here to review the notice (Adobe PDF).

WHAT ARE IIHS LEAST SAFE CARS?
By Stephen Markley (Cars.com Kicking Tires)

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its 2010 Top Safety Picks, which include all vehicles that received a “Good” rating in the different crash tests, but what about those vehicles that didn’t fare so well? USA Today wondered the same thing and looked them up for us.

The good news is there really aren’t any completely dangerous vehicles on the road anymore. Regulation and consumer demand for safer cars have increased vehicle-safety standards to new heights. Hence the term “least safe” in the headline.

Mini Cars

2009 Chevrolet Aveo — Poor when hit from the rear
2009 Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio — Poor when hit from the side or rear

Small Cars
2009 Volkswagen New Beetle — Poor when hit from the side
2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser — Poor when hit from the side or the rear

Large Luxury Cars
2010 Infiniti M35/M45 — Poor when hit from the rear
2010 Cadillac STS — Poor when hit from the rear

Small SUVs
2010 Ford Escape Hybrid; Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid — Poor in a rollover
2009 Hyundai Tucson — Poor in a rollover
2010 Jeep Wrangler — Poor when hit from the side

Midsize SUVs
2009 Hummer H3 — Poor when hit from the rear
2009 Kia Sorento — Poor when hit from the side

Minivans
2009 Nissan Quest — Poor when hit from the rear
2010 Toyota Sienna — Poor when hit from the rear
NEW SIDE-IMPACT TEST TO BE ADDED
The New York Times
Online Article

NEW ROOF CRUSH RATING SYSTEMS
The Institute's roof strength rating system will help consumers pick vehicles that will help protect them in rollover crashes. Roof strength will become a component of the Top Safety Pick criteria for 2010 models.
Procedures for rating roof strength
Minicars: roof strength details
Small SUVs: roof strength details

U.S. DOT Doubles Roof Strength Standard for Light Vehicles
Announces First Ever Standards for Heavier Vehicles

DOT 58-09 - Thursday, April 30, 2009
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced tough, new roof standards that will significantly strengthen vehicle roof structures and improve rollover crash protection.
U.S. DOT Doubles Roof Strength Standard for Light Vehicles
Announces First Ever Standards for Heavier Vehicles

DOT 58-09 - Thursday, April 30, 2009
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced tough, new roof standards that will significantly strengthen vehicle roof structures and improve rollover crash protection.

“Rollovers are the deadliest crashes on our highways and today's rule will help occupants survive these horrific events,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The new regulation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will double the current roof strength requirement for light vehicles weighing up to 6,000 pounds.

It specifies that both the driver and passenger sides of the roof must be capable of withstanding a force equal to three times the weight of the vehicle.

The current standard calls for roofs to withstand 1.5 times the weight of the vehicle, applied to one side of the roof, for light vehicles up to 6,000 pounds.

Heavier vehicles from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds, which have never been regulated, must now have both sides of the roof capable of withstanding a force equal to 1.5 times the weight of the vehicle.

The phase-in schedule, which begins in September 2012, will be completed for all affected vehicles by the 2017 model year.

Secretary LaHood also reminded Americans that wearing a safety belt will significantly improve the chance of survival in a rollover crash. They keep people in their seats and can prevent them from being ejected in rollover crashes.

“These new standards go a long way toward reducing deaths, but safety belts are the first, most important step everyone should take to protecting themselves and their families,” he said.

The tougher roof crush requirements are part of a comprehensive plan to address rollover crashes, which kill about 10,000 people annually. That approach includes a mandated electronic stability control system, which helps prevent the rollover from occurring.

Read the final rule here.


DUSTIN BENHAM CO-AUTHORED PAPER FOR SMU LAW REVIEW

Mr. Benham co-authored a paper entitled “Personal Torts” which was published in the SMU Law Review.
Click here to review the article (Adobe PDF).


TEXAS SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS JUDGMENT AGAINST GM

On June 20, 2008, the Texas Supreme Court refused to set aside a $18.5 million judgment against General Motors Corporation.  Lee Brown of The Brown Law Firm says: “This is a landmark victory for the Burry family and all consumers.”   Click Here to review the Order (Adobe PDF).

For more information about this case, please contact Lee Brown at 214/624-3400, lbrown@leebrownlaw.com.


FEDERAL COURT SANCTIONS FORD

The Honorable Chad Everingham, Magistrate to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, entered a sanctions order against Ford Motor Company for its discovery abuse in an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Side Airbag (SIAB) case.  Judge Everingham stated in his Order:  “Ford’s practices in resisting relevant discovery and refusing to tender 30(b)(6) witnesses in a timely manner are consistent with its prior conduct in this court.  In addition to the relief contained herein, the court will entertain further requests for relief at the pre-trial conference once the court has reviewed Ford’s sworn statement concerning the production the court has ordered.” Click Here to review the Order (Adobe PDF).

For more information about this case, please contact Lee Brown at 214/624-3400, lbrown@leebrownlaw.com.


DUSTIN BENHAM REPRESENTS PETITIONER BEFORE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT

Following highly-publicized victories in the United States Supreme Court as a brief-writer and co-counsel for Amicus Curiae in United States v. Kimbrough, 552 U.S. ___ (2007) and as second-chair appellate counsel for petitioner in Spears v. United States, 552 U.S. ___ (2008), Dustin Benham has again been retained, pro bono, to represent the petitioner in Spears v. United States II.  In Spears II, Steven Spears again petitions the United States Supreme Court for relief from his sentence.  His original, lengthy sentence was re-affirmed on remand to the Eighth Circuit after the Supreme Court vacated it.  In the new appeal, Steven Spears argues that his sentence violates both federal law and the Sixth Amendment.  In particular, Spears maintains that trial judges should have discretion to fashion sentences that vary from the federal sentencing guidelines based on the disparity in guidelines’ sentences for crimes involving cocaine or cocaine base.  This disparity has resulted in wide-ranging problems, from overcrowded prisons to disparity in treatment of individuals based on race and economic factors.  During this representation, Mr. Benham has worked closely with lead counsel and Baylor Law School Professor Mark Osler. 

For more information on Dustin Benham’s work and the Supreme Court cases at issue see the following articles:


Pro Bono Work by Baylor Law Professor, Student and Graduate
Impacts U.S. Supreme Court Cocaine Sentencing Case
- Baylor University

Court Restores Sentencing Powers of Federal Judges - The New York Times