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ARTICLE ID 31532

- PRODUCTS LIABILITY - ALLEGED DEFECT IN SUBARU ROOF DESIGN - UNCRASHWORTHINESS - PLAINTIFF PASSENGER SUFFERS QUADRIPLEGIC INJURY WHEN HOST VEHICLE STRIKES MOOSE WHICH LANDS ON TOP OF CAR.

U.S. District, Portland, Maine

This products liability action arose out of a single vehicle accident involving a Subaru XT Coupe manufactured and distributed p 7 3 by the defendants Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. and Subaru of America, Inc. The plaintiff front seat passenger, a 44-year-old female, suffered a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia when the vehicle struck a moose which was then propelled onto the roof of the car. The plaintiff contended that the roof of the Subaru was defectively designed, rendering the vehicle uncrashworthy. The plaintiff contended that her injury directly resulted from the uncrashworthy condition of the roof structure.

The subject accident occurred in October of ________, on a dark, rainy night while the plaintiff was riding as a front seat passenger in a Subaru XT coupe operated by her husband. The plaintiffs testified that a moose darted out into the roadway and the driver attempted to bring the Subaru to a stop to avoid striking the animal. The plaintiffs maintained that the car was slowed to a speed of approximately five to ten miles per hour when the moose jumped on top of the vehicle.

The plaintiff’s engineering expert testified that the Subaru XT coupe was equipped with a roof which was defectively designed in that it was of insufficient strength to withstand foreseeable forces without crushing inward. Specifically, the plaintiff’s expert contended that the roof rail, situated at the periphery of the windshield, should have been welded differently and should have utilized box construction.

The defendant’s engineering experts maintained that the subject vehicle’s design was safe and comported with all applicable standards and common industry practice. The defendants disputed the plaintiffs’ version of how the accident occurred. The defendants alleged that the Subaru struck the moose at a speed of approximately 35 miles per hour, based upon the available physical evidence in addition to a recorded statement given to an investigator for the plaintiffs’ workers’ compensation carrier, during an interview of the plaintiff in the hospital. The plaintiffs husband and wife operated a restaurant and were on a business trip at the time of the accident.

The medical evidence indicated that the plaintiff suffered a spinal cord dislocation injury at C6-C7 resulting in quadriplegia. The plaintiff’s treating neurologist testified as to the injury suffered and as to the potential medical complications faced by the plaintiff because of her condition.

The plaintiff claimed total disability as a result of the accident. Special damages, including medical and attendant care needs as well as economic loss, approximated $5.5 million. The jury found for the defendants.

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