A jury in the USDC for the Middle District of Louisiana returned a verdict for two Nissan entities, rejecting plaintiff’s claim that a manufacturing defect in a u-joint of an Infiniti G35S failed and caused the fatal crash that gave rise to the lawsuit. Keith W. McDaniel and Quincy T. Crochet of McCranie, Sistrunk, Anzelmo, Hardy, McDaniel & Welch, LLC represented the Nissan entities.
On April 9, 2013, as plaintiff’s decedent (“decedent”) traveled on I-10 in the inside lane she moved to the right, entered the outside lane, and forced a motorist to the shoulder to avoid a collision. Decedent then moved to the left and exited I-10 at high speed eventually striking some trees. The coroner pronounced decedent dead at the scene. Police found decedent’s cell phone in/near her hand and determined that the accident resulted from distraction and driving in an unsafe manner. Plaintiff claimed instead that decedent did not cause the accident. Using data from the vehicle data recorder and a statement from a witness plaintiff’s expert testified that the vehicle’s u-joint separated on-roadway resulting in decedent’s inability to control the vehicle. Additionally, he claimed that the u-joint – which was found separated during a post-accident inspection of the heavily damaged vehicle – contained a manufacturing defect that allowed the u-joint to separate.
Nissan’s reconstruction showed that decedent steered to the left in an over-correction causing a counterclockwise yaw as the vehicle exited the roadway. While decedent steered to the right after over-correcting, her efforts came too late to correct the travel path given her speed and the available distance on roadway. Another Nissan expert demonstrated that witness marks left on the u-joint only could have been made had the u-joint been intact at the time the vehicle crashed.
Plaintiff, the only surviving child of decedent, sought over $1,200,000. The jury unanimously rendered a defense verdict.