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ARTICLE ID 29082

- AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCTS LIABILITY - DEFENDANT HONDA MANUFACTURES ALLEGEDLY DEFECTIVE ________ HONDA CIVIC COUPE - ALLEGED UNCRASHWORTHINESS IN SIDE-IMPACT COLLISIONS - WRONGFUL DEATH OF 39-YEAR-OLD PULMONOLOGIST - DECEDENT SURVIVED BY WIFE AND MINOR CHILD - WIFE WAS PREGNANT AT THE TIME OF DECEDENT'S DEATH.

Maricopa County, Arizona

This products liability action arose out of a two-vehicle, intersection collision involving a ________ Honda Civic Coupe and a ________ Lexus 250ES. The male decedent, a 39-year-old married physician, was operating the Honda when his vehicle was struck on the driver’s side by the Lexus, whose operator failed to heed the red light controlling that vehicle’s direction of travel. The decedent suffered fatal injuries in the accident as an alleged result of the unsafe design of the Honda. The plaintiffs contended that the Honda was uncrashworthy specifically relating to side-impact strength. The alleged unsafe design allegedly caused the decedent to sustain the fatal injuries suffered.

The subject accident occurred on June 3, ________, at an intersection in Scottsdale, Arizona. The decedent was the driver of a ________ Honda Civic Coupe and was traveling westbound through the intersection of Sweetwater Boulevard and Scottsdale Road, when the driver of a southbound Lexus ran a red light and struck the Honda in the driver’s side front fender and door. The Scottsdale Police Department calculated an impact speed of 46 M.P.H. by the Lexus and 22 M.P.H. by the Honda. The impact sent both vehicles spinning through the intersection and into a stationary delivery van.

The decedent was fatally injured in the accident. He sustained multiple injuries, including fractures to his left tibia, fibula and femur, as well as a fractured pelvis. The decedent additionally sustained a severely torn aorta and died in surgery the day after the accident. The decedent, a pulmonologist, was p 7 3 survived by his wife and son, born five months following his death. The plaintiffs’ damages included medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost future income and services, loss of love and affection, and past and future mental suffering.

The plaintiffs contended that the ________ Honda Civic Coupe was uncrashworthy in side-impact collisions. The plaintiffs claimed that the Civic’s door beam was situated too high and was insufficiently strong to prevent occupant compartment intrusion by the impacting Lexus. Further, the plaintiffs alleged that the Civic required two door beams and various body reinforcements to provide greater rigidity in side-impact accidents. The court permitted the plaintiffs to introduce evidence that some later model automobiles have two beams in each door and other structures to enhance side-impact performance.

Much of the plaintiff’s liability case focused on a recent amendment to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) imposing dynamic crash test performance requirements. Under the FMVSS ________ dynamic test standard, a ________-pound moving deformable barrier is crashed into a test vehicle at a 27-degree angle to simulate a 30 M.P.H. vehicle striking a 15 mph vehicle in a 90- degree intersection accident. The ________ model year was the first of a four phase-in period for this new federal safety standard.

For model year ________, manufacturers were required to conform 10 percent of the fleets to the new standard. The ________ Civic Coupe was part of the fifth generation Honda Civic line developed between ________ and ________ and, therefore, it was not subject to the new standard.

The defendant Honda contended that the ________ Honda Civic was a safe and defect-free vehicle with state-of-the-art side impact crashworthiness. Honda maintained that the subject accident was extremely severe and that none of the alternative designs promoted by plaintiffs’ experts would have prevented the decedent’s fatal injuries.

Furthermore, Honda introduced statistical accident data to demonstrate that the ________ Civic provided excellent real-world, side-impact protection when compared to other vehicles, including later model Honda Civics and various newer and larger vehicles singled out by the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses.

Counsel for plaintiff did not suggest a specific amount of damages to the jury in his closing argument, as is permitted in California. He did, however, point out the expert economist’s evaluation of the plaintiffs’ economic loss, totaling approximately $10 million.

The jury found for the defendant.

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