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Confidential Pre-Trial Settlement in Auto Defect Resulting in Vehicle Rollaway Fatality

Attorneys Alan M. Feldman, Daniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis achieved a confidential settlement just before trial against an automaker on behalf of the Estate of Jane Doe who died when her vehicle rolled over her. Her two daughters were in the vehicle at the time of the incident.

When referral counsel contacted our offices, all that was known was that Jane had exited her vehicle to assist a neighbor in opening the vehicle’s lift gate.  When the lift gate would not open, Jane attempted to return to the driver’s seat, but the vehicle began to roll rearwards. She attempted to re-enter the vehicle to stop it because her daughters were still in the vehicle, but the vehicle struck a large rock that caused it to turn, and Jane went under the front left wheel.

The auto defect team immediately recognized that this set of facts pointed to a need to explore a potential transmission defect as a cause of the unintended rearward vehicle movement. The team examined whether the shift lever could be placed in a position that would appear to be in Park without actually being fully engaged in the Park position, and whether after a delay the vehicle could roll or even enter powered reverse. Well recognized experts who specialized in transmission design, accident reconstruction, human factors and vehicle testing were retained.  In this particular case, the team conducted vehicle testing which the experts contend demonstrated that the problem could occur not only with the subject vehicle, but with an exemplar vehicle as well.

The case resolved shortly before trial.