Articles Posted in Defective Auto Products

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Two people died and six were injured in a three-car rollover car accident in Utah early morning July 12, 2009. According to a news report in The Spectrum, most of the injured victims were from Los Angeles and the Southern California area. The fatal car accident occurred when 29-year-old Juan Garcia, who was driving south on the 15 Freeway, swerved to avoid a deer. Garcia’s 1993 Range Rover rolled over several times. His two children–Zapatista Angulo, 3, and Assata Angulo, 5 months, were ejected from the SUV.

The baby–Assata Angulo–died of head injuries. Olegario Angulo, 31, a passenger in the Range Rover, suffered fatal head injuries after the SUV’s roof and door caved in. He died at the scene. Chantel Manuel, 22, suffered injuries to the lower torso and Garcia sustained head and arm injuries. Zapatista Angulo was also taken to the hospital with injuries.

Mario Mendez, 67, was driving a 2006 Toyota 4Runner south when he saw the debris, but missed the Range Rover crashing into it. He was not injured. But a third driver, 47-year-old Jennifer Jordan of Rancho Santa Margarita crashed her Toyota Tacoma into the Range Rover and suffered ankle injuries. Her son, Jeremy, 20, suffered minor injuries.
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Robert William Cusack, 47, was killed in a San Bernardino rollover car accident near Highway 395 and Shadow Mountain Road in Adelanto on July 4, 2009, according to a news report in the Victorville Daily Press. Cusack was heading east on Shadow Mountain Road in a black 2007 Toyota Tacoma, when the truck left the roadway and rolled over several times. Cusack was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after the car crash. California Highway Patrol officials are still trying to determine what caused Cusack’s truck to leave the roadway.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Robert William Cusack for their tragic and heartbreaking loss. I offer my deepest sympathies to everyone who knew and loved this man. Please keep them in your prayers.

According to California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), in 2007, there were three fatalities and 32 injuries involving car accidents in Adelanto. In San Bernardino County, 308 deaths and 9,920 injuries were reported as a result of car accidents in 2007. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that at least 10,000 fatal traffic accidents in the United States each year involve rollover crashes.
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A Riverside County tour bus accident on the 215 Freeway the afternoon of May 2, 2009 injured 25 people and at least eight suffered critical injuries, according to an article in The Desert Sun. The Inland Empire Stages Ltd. bus was returning to Colton from a San Diego area casino when it veered to the right crossing two lanes and crashed into a cinder-block wall. California Highway Patrol investigators are looking into what caused the 56-year-old bus driver to lose control of the 2003 MCI E-Series Renaissance Coach, which was northbound on the freeway with 27 passengers.

The eight victims who were critically injured were taken to area hospitals. There is no word on how these victims are doing. This Riverside County bus crash occurred three days after a similar bus accident in Soledad took the lives of four French tourists and bus driver, 69-year-old John Agnew of Corona. That investigation is still continuing.
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Dennis Garton, the Undersheriff of Tehama County, California, suffered severe injuries in an off-duty motorcycle accident in Nevada during a cross-country ride on his Honda Goldwing. According to a news report in the Corning Observer, the valve stem on the rear tire of Garton’s motorcycle was cut off resulting in a rapid loss of air. That reportedly caused Garton’s motorcycle to go into a wobble before he was forced to lay it down on the pavement.

Garton suffered severe injuries following the motorcycle accident including a concussion, fractured vertebrae in his back and neck, a broken foot, broken hand, fractured ribs and road rash. He is expected to recover, thankfully..

There have been no known recalls on Honda Goldwing tires or valve stems that I am aware of or could find in a cursor search, but there have been comments and reports of tire problems on Web sites for motorcycle enthusiasts. One motorcycle enthusiast website talks about a situation that seems identical to what happened to Garton. A consumer says that his friend’s mother-in-law died after the Goldwing that she was a passenger on suffered a tire valve stem failure, causing an immediate flat. The Goldwing reportedly had a right-angled valve stem.

Another site lists a complaint from a consumer in Mason, Illinois, that the tires on his 2003 Honda Goldwing were rough and vibrated when turning the motorcycle. The consumer also complained that in time tires may experience tread separation. The consumer added that when he contacted the dealer and manufacturer about the problem, they said there was nothing they could do about the tires.
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An excellent investigative report by WFTV in Florida tells us why tire tread separation can occur even in tires that seem brand new. According to this news report, safety experts are now warning that tires more than six years old are susceptible to failure. And even more disturbing is that the WFTV’s investigation found the local Florida stores were selling old tires as new.

The reporter interviewed the mother of Nicalos Rowan, a 20-year-old who died in a rollover accident after the tread separated from the tire on his SUV. The failed tire caused his SUV to flip over. The defective tire was actually a spare that his mother, Linda, had put on the vehicle two days before the accident. Only after he son’s tragic death did she learn that the tire which she believed was brand new, was in fact 11 years old.
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Toyota is recalling 90,189 Highlander and Highlander hybrids because apparently the third row passenger seatbelts are defective when it comes to securing a child restraint system. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the flaw in the restraint systems in these sport utility vehicles could result in injuries to children in the case of an auto accident.

So if you own one of these SUVs, please watch the mail for your recall notice. Toyota is promising to fix the problem for free. According to an article in the watchdog Web site Consumeraffairs.com, the seat belt webbing in the third row of the recalled Highlanders is not properly secured by the automatic retractor. This makes the seatbelt webbing prone to spooling out during normal driving.

How does the loose belt affect the stability of a child restraint? It could cause major injuries or even death in a high-speed crash or rollover accident. Such a defective seatbelt will do nothing to protect children from injuries during auto accidents. Toyota dealers will install a newer, better-designed seatbelt free of charge when the recall gets underway. If you own one of these vehicles and would like to know more about the recall, please call Toyota Motor Co. at 800-331-4331 or NHTSA at 800-327-4236.
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A jury in Texas awarded $84 million to a man who was injured when a U-Haul rental truck he rented ran him over because the parking brake failed. According to a Bloomberg News report, Talmadge Waldrip, 74, parked the truck on a slight incline and the parking brake failed. In his lawsuit against U-Haul, Waldrip alleged that U-Haul failed to maintain its vehicles properly and should be held liable for his injuries.

According to the article, Waldrip’s pelvis was crushed in the 2006 accident leaving him unable to walk and with no bowel control. Waldrip also alleged in the lawsuit that the truck with 234,000 miles on it was poorly maintained. U-Haul officials have said they will certainly appeal the verdict and that they find the damages awarded “outrageous.” A company spokesperson told the news service: “The final verdict is another example of abuse of the legal system against corporate citizens in America.”

A Dallas court found U-Haul negligent and awarded Waldrip a total of $84.25 million, a majority (about $63 million) in punitive damages. The verdict is reportedly the 11th largest jury award this year so far.
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A California judge, earlier this week, approved a class action settlement for about 800,000 owners of the Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles, which were said to have lost value following an extensive tire recall stemming from concerns over potential rollover crashes. According to a Reuters news report, Judge David Alba approved the settlement in Sacramento on the Explorer class action lawsuit, which includes vehicles purchased or leased between 1991 and 2001 in the states of California, Illinois, Texas and Connecticut.

The lawsuit by Explorer owners, who by the way have every right to be dissatisfied and upset, did not make any personal injury or damage claims, but alleged a loss of financial value for the Explorers. As per the settlement, Ford Motor Co. has agreed to issue discount certificates valid for one year worth $500 toward the purchase or lease of the new Explorer or $300 toward the purchase or lease of any other new Ford, Mercury or Lincoln vehicle.

Ford is also going to pay out $25 million to the attorneys representing the class members. Of course, company officials continue to say that the case was “without merit” and that somehow, they proved it in court. As personal injury attorneys who have represented numerous victims of Ford Explorer and Expedition rollover crashes, we know that Ford’s statements are without merit.
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The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a new proposal on the table that requires all vehicles to have stronger roofs to protect occupants in rollover accidents. That’s a good thing, because 10,000 Americans die each year in rollover crashes alone and thousands more suffer major injuries that leave them disabled for life.

Well, this requirement could mean saving thousands of lives because the strength of a vehicle’s roof could make the difference between life and death in a rollover accident. The NHTSA currently conducts roof crush tests by pressing down on a plate placed against the edge of a vehicle’s roof. The roof must withstand a force equivalent to 1.5 times the weight of the vehicle, up to a limit of 5,000 pounds without the plate moving more than 5 inches, according to this article in Consumer Reports.

We’ve already said in previous blogs that this standard is still not adequate. Especially flawed are the tests conducted in determining this roof strength. The way they perform these tests are very different from the way accidents happen in real life. But a huge concern, from our point of view, is that a part of this proposal will limit consumer lawsuits against auto makers.
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Two men were killed in a multi-vehicle freeway accident that started in the northbound lanes of the 15 Freeway in Rancho Cucamonga. The accident was triggered when the left rear tire tread on a Honda sedan separated, according to a news report in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

The Honda with the blown tire driven by a 41-year-old Long Beach man, then crossed the northbound lanes and struck a Ford E-250 15-passenger van, which in turn spun out, crashed through the guard rail and into a pickup truck. Both the driver of the pickup, 27-year-old Jesus P. Velasco of Pomona, and the driver of the 15-passenger van, Viorel Taru, 49, of Loma Linda, died in this horrible auto accident. The Ford van and the pickup truck were involved in a head-on collision, officials told the Daily Bulletin. Two other vehicles were also involved in a collision.
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