Automobile Manufacturer Brake Failure Issue

Date: January 28, 2010

Katherine was an extremely independent individual, even though she was now 77 years old. Katherine enjoyed her privacy and lived in her own small house. Every Saturday, she would go to the grocery store where she would shop. While it took her a little longer to do things, she was in good physical shape and was able to take care of herself.

Katherine had just finished her shopping at a local Hamlin market and was heading home. Upon arriving at her driveway, she slowed down and turned the wheel to go into her garage, which opened automatically. Suddenly, and without explanation, Katherine\’s Toyota Camry started to accelerate, despite the fact that Katherine was not even pushing down on the gas pedal. Katherine tried to apply the brakes as hard as she could, but to no avail, and the car crashed inside her garage.

Fortunately, Katherine\’s injuries were minor, but the damage to both her car and her garage were quite extensive. Katherine\’s children were upset and believed that their mother should no longer be entrusted with driving a motor vehicle. Her children simply did not believe that the car took off on its own, despite Katherine\’s insistence otherwise.

Katherine sought the assistance of an attorney and, after a close inspection of the vehicle by a mechanical automotive expert; it became clear that there was a defect in the acceleration mechanism of the car, causing it to accelerate unexpectedly.

Issue: Does Katherine have any cause for a legal action against the manufacturer of the vehicle?

Answer: Yes. All car manufacturers warrant that when their vehicles are used in the correct manner, that they are safe and road worthy. In this particular case, Katherine was in no way at fault. But for the mechanical defect in the car, the accident never would have happened. The manufacturer will be responsible for the property damage to both Katherine\’s vehicle and to her home as well. Katherine will also, of course, and equally important, get an apology from her children. Katherine will be able to maintain her independence and continue to be a safe driver as she had always been.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.