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Truck Rollover, Seat Belt Doesn’t Work – Serious Injuries Cause Death: Case Report by Texas Unsafe Car Lawyer
Product Liability – Wrongful Death. Seatbelt Failure, Inertial Release
Case: Cause No. C-1335-03-E; Lilia Rivera, et al. vs. Ford Motor Company, et al.; In the 275th Judicial District Court, Hidalgo County, Texas. The Honorable Juan Partida presiding.
Date: January 3, 2003
The Rivera family was represented by Attorneys Chad D. Points and Tony Denena, Denena & Points, PC, Houston, Texas
Ford Motor Company was represented by Jaime Saenz, Colvin, Chaney, Saenz, Brownsville, Texas and Timothy O’Neill and Ashley Krause, Snell & Wilmer, Denver, Colorado.
Seatbelt manufacturer TRW was represented by Jack E. Little, Jr. and David Tippetts of Weinstein, Tippetts and Little, Houston, Texas and Jaime Balli of Weslaco, Texas.
FACTS & ALLEGATIONS. Juan Rivera was driving his 2001 Ford F150 when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled over. The seatbelt buckle released the latch plate during the rollover sequence because of the buckle’s inability to withstand inertial forces. Even the experts for Ford and TRW agreed Mr. Rivera was wearing the seatbelt when the rollover began because of the significant evidence on the seatbelt components such as the d-ring, webbing and latch plate.
We sued Ford and TRW on behalf of the Rivera family alleging the seatbelt was defectively designed because it could release due to inertia forces alone during a rollover. Once the release happened, Mr. Rivera was unrestrained and ejected from the occupant space during the rollover. The Ford/TRW buckle lacked economically and technologically feasible design features such as a “lock for the latch” and a simple counter balance inside the buckle. Mr. Rivera was ejected through the passenger side window. This window was made of tempered instead of laminated glass which would have prevented the ejection.
Chad took corporate representative depositions of Ford and TRW employees. Chad presented all of the Plaintiffs experts. More than ten depositions were taken during the litigaion.
Despite having sworn testimony refuting their outlandish claim, Defendants Ford and TRW argued Mr. Rivera was actually a passenger and walked away from the crash and was living in hiding somewhere in Mexico. At the time of his death, Mr. Rivera was President and CEO of a highly successful drilling mud company based in Mission, Texas where he lived with his wife and five children.
RESULT. After a failed mediation, trial commenced. Following vore dire, the case settled for a confidential amount demanded by the defendants and granted.
Plaintiff Experts: Micky G. Gilbert, PE, accident investigation/reconstruction, Golden, CO.; Steve Syson, PE, restraint system design, Goleta, CA.; Mark Krouse, MD, death causation and survival time, Ft. Worth, TX.; Richard Clarke, PE, restraint system testing, Atlanta, GA.; Stephen Batzer, PE, PhD, glass glazing, Little Rock, AR.
Defendant Experts: Don Tandy, PE, accident investigation/reconstruction, The Woodlands, TX.; Greg Miller, PE, restraint system design and testing, Detroit, MI.; Eddie R. Cooper, PE, restraint system design, Scottsdale, AZ; Robert L. Piziali, PE, PhD, biomechanics, San Carlos, CA