Romero v. Defendant Automobile Manufacturer

  • Client: Defendant Automobile Manufacturer
    Outcome: Summary judgment in favor of client, with award of statutory attorneys’ fees and costs

Synopsis:

DBMS obtained summary judgment in favor of a defendant automobile manufacturer in three consolidated product liability cases alleging sudden acceleration.

The lead plaintiff, Benjamin Romero, claimed that a defective idle air control valve caused the vehicle to suddenly accelerate from a stopped position crushing Mr. Romero, who was then attending an auto auction located in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, between the vehicle and another vehicle.

As a result of the accident, Mr. Romero required an above the knee amputation of his right leg. Mr. Romero subsequently filed suit against the auto auction and manufacturer seeking over $7 million in damages. 

Plaintiffs’ claims against the defendant focused on the vehicle's idle air control valve and a related TSB. Plaintiffs alleged that the idle air control valve was defectively designed and that the manufacturer was negligent because the malfunctioning valve caused the vehicle to lurch and accelerate unintentionally.

The defense countered with extensive expert testing that demonstrated that the alleged condition in the idle air control valve could not have resulted in such a forceful acceleration as plaintiff believed. 

After discovery was completed, the defense filed a Daubert motion to exclude the plaintiffs’ experts and moved for summary judgment. The trial judge granted the motions finding that the experts’ opinions were not reliable under Daubert.

DBMS successfully argued that the plaintiffs’ experts offered nothing more than their bald assertion that there was a defect, after having failed to demonstrate through any reliable testing or standards to establish any defect. The judge dismissed plaintiffs’ argument that such testing was unnecessary by pointing to the defense's detailed and thorough testing regarding whether the conditions in the allegedly applicable TSB existed and, if so, whether the vehicle would even accelerate in the way that Plaintiffs postulated. 

DBMS emphasized that plaintiffs’ experts themselves did not know the answers to these questions, thereby rendering their “electromagnetic interference” theory inherently unreliable. After granting the defense motions, the trial judge allowed the defense to recover its statutory attorneys’ fees and costs.    

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