Firm Wins Defective Minivan Liftgate Latch Case in Michigan
Three high school teenage girls were killed after they were ejected from the rear liftgate of a minivan during a single vehicle rollover accident in Michigan. There was conflicting witness testimony as to whether the girls were wearing their seat belts. The evidence showed that the minivan was traveling at 50 MPH when the driver swerved, overcorrected and then made 4 complete rolls before coming to rest. Michigan law has a $500,000 cap in product liability cases.
The 3 families hired P&K after researching our prior experience proving that similar door latches were substandard and defective. P&K conducted a rigorous investigation, including multiple trips to Michigan to interview eyewitnesses, police officers and paramedics, and to inspect the accident scene and vehicle. P&K retained experts to prepare a 3 dimensional digital model of the vehicle, the roadway, skid marks, gouges, glass, the girls’ final rest positions and other physical evidence to create a computer animated reconstruction of the rollover and ejection sequence. We also prepared a complete chronology of the design changes and flaws with the minivan latch to present to the manufacturer at a presuit settlement conference.
The manufacturer attempted to argue that the girls were ejected through the side window and therefore any problems with the liftgate latch were irrelevant. They also argued that the girls sustained fatal head injuries inside the vehicle during the roll sequence and that their ejections did not cause the deaths. Finally, the defense argued that the other girls in the minivan, who were wearing their seat belts, did not suffer any serious head injuries and were not ejected. Luminol testing disproved the defense theory because no blood was found inside the vehicle.
P&K also retained seat belt experts who found load mark evidence showing that 2 of the girls were belted, and that the seat belt buckles were the same type which have been previously found to be defective by a Texas jury. After a full day minitrial presentation by P&K, the manufacturer agreed to pay each family the maximum $500,000 recovery allowed under Michigan law.