RKC Attorneys Win Defense Verdict for Toyota in Crashworthiness Case
On September 5, 2008, after a five week trial, a Pinellas County jury found that the 2000 Toyota 4Runner driver's seat belt system was not defective in the matter of Moncrieff v. Toyota Motor Corporation, et. al., Case No. 04-2411-CI-8, Sixth Judicial Circuit Court, Pinellas County, St. Petersburg, FL. In so doing, the jury rejected the Plaintiff's claims that the seat belt suffered from a design defect which caused it to unbuckle during a severe rollover accident. The jury also denied the Plaintiff's request for more than $11 million in damages. Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell Tampa partner, Brian Baggot defended the case at trial with Susan McClugage serving as the trial paralegal. Partner Rob Blank also briefly appeared at trial to perform witness examinations during an emergency absence by Baggot. Anna Upton from Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell’s Tallahassee office was the associate attorney at trial while Wes Lockwood, a Tampa associate also provided key litigation support. Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell tried the case with David W. Graves Jr. and Ted Dorenkamp from Bowman & Brooke, LLP in Minneapolis, MN.
The lawsuit arose after the Plaintiff was partially ejected from the Toyota 4Runner and suffered paraplegia during a single vehicle rollover accident near Ft. Myers, FL, in which she was the driver. The Plaintiff alleged that the driver’s seat belt restraint system was defectively designed which caused it to inertially or inadvertently release during the rollover. Toyota denied this claim and alleged, among other things, that Plaintiff was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash. Toyota also put on evidence that the seat belt restraint system complied with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 208, 209, and 210, and that the design of the system was consistent with industry practice, providing reasonable occupant protection in a wide variety of accident scenarios. Additionally, Toyota's engineer, Motoki Shibata, testified about the extensive testing Toyota performed on the 4Runner during development and how that testing demonstrated that the 4Runner provided reasonable occupant protection in rollovers and other crash modes.
Toyota's Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs is pending due to the Plaintiff's failure to accept a pre-trial proposal for settlement made by Toyota pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 768.79.
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