A lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman injured in a wreck in Shawnee, Kansas, caused by the unintended acceleration of her car, resulted in a settlement of more than $2 million in an out-of-state court.
According to plaintiff’s attorney Jason Roth, in March 2013 the plaintiff, then 75, was driving her granddaughter to school when her 2009 Pontiac Vibe accelerated out of control, ran a stop sign and collided nearly head on with another vehicle as plaintiff attempted to gain control of her vehicle. The woman suffered severe injuries in the crash, including loss of her left leg below the knee.
The plaintiff’s Vibe had previously been a rental car. In 2010, that model year of the Vibe — which was manufactured as part of a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota and was essentially the same vehicle as a Toyota Matrix — was the subject of two safety recalls related to the claims of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. The recalls required cutting the accelerator pedal to reduce its length and removing padding around the area of the accelerator to prevent entrapment.
The rental car company took the car to a GM dealer for performance of the recall work. According to Roth, the suit alleged that the dealership never completed the work, even though it prepared paperwork indicating that it had done and been paid for the work.
The dealer returned the Vibe to the rental car company, which continued to use it until selling the car to the plaintiff in August 2011. The rental car company claimed it was not aware that the recall work on the Vibe had not been completed.
The plaintiff claimed the dealer was negligent and responsible for plaintiff’s injuries because of its failure to complete the recall work. The defendant, however, claimed the unperformed recall work had nothing to do with the cause of the crash and that the cause of the crash was pedal misapplication by the plaintiff. The investigating officer’s report said “the cause of the crash appeared to be operator error” by the plaintiff, according to Roth.
After litigating the matter for more than a year, the case settled for $2.075 million following two days of mediation. Although the accident occurred in Kansas, the case was handled in the state where the GM dealership was based. Roth said he couldn’t identify the location. Roth provided a copy of the settlement agreement to confirm the amount.
Motor vehicle collision
Confidential/April 20, 2015
Jason P. Roth, Copley Roth & Wilson, Overland Park, Kansas; Chad C. Lucas, Kuhlman & Lucas, Kansas City