Lives in the Balance

Written by Joe O’Donnell

A jury in Los Angeles returned a $25 million verdict for three plaintiffs against Nissan in a lawsuit blaming faulty brakes for a car crash that killed three victims. The crash that occurred at an intersection in Hollywood involved a minivan and an Infiniti QX56, manufactured by Nissan. The van driver and her two children were killed when the Infiniti driven by Solomon Mathenge slammed into their vehicle.

Cory Watson attorney Jerome Tapley, who is based in Birmingham and served as lead attorney in the case. says the firm became involved after a family member reached out to them. Tapley has described the case is a perfect microcosm of the importance of the law and the careful, measured pursuit of justice. “This case affirms that the justice system works to hold wrongdoers accountable, and that good Birmingham lawyers can try a case anywhere.”

Nissan argued the accident was caused entirely by Mathenge, then 74. Mathenge was charged with manslaughter after the crash, but the charges were dropped when prosecutors became aware of a class action lawsuit against Nissan, alleging the same type of brake failure Mathenge claimed he suffered occurred in numerous other vehicles, including the QX56.

Along with Tapley, fellow Cory Watson, P.C. attorneys Brett Turnbull, Ryan Lutz, Adam Pittman, and Ryan Myers represented plaintiffs in the case alongside Paul Kiesel, Steven Archer and Bryan Garcia of Kiesel Law LLP, Kirk Wolden of Carter Wolden, as well as attorneys Claudia C. Bohorquez and Vicki I. Sarmiento.

“We applaud the jury for their diligence and hard work reviewing the evidence in this case. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost their loved ones in this tragic accident that could have been avoided. We hope this verdict will inspire Nissan to step up and take responsibility for the safety of their vehicles so that no one else is killed or injured because of a product defect Nissan failed to reveal and recall,” says Tapley. The verdict was announced July 21, 2017 in Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County.

The lawsuit charged that Nissan knew about a software problem affecting the brake operation, but failed to disclose it and recall the vehicles. The complaint charged that, “Rather than disclose this critical safety defect and recall the defective vehicles as it should have done, Nissan made a conscious decision to ignore the problem at the expense of the safety of its customers, those operating the defective vehicles, and the public at large.”

Nissan argued that the brakes on the QX56 are safe, and the automaker blamed the deadly crash on the driver of the QX56. The jury rejected Nissan’s argument. The driver was also the target of a criminal prosecution and wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by the victims’ family, but the legal landscape changed when it was revealed the brake failure claim wasn’t the first involving a similar class of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles.

In Banks v. Nissan, Nissan settled a class action involving claims concerning the same brake defect in 2014, offering up to $800 in compensation to the owners of more than 250,000 Nissan-built Armadas, Titans and Infiniti QX56 models. Tapley and Lutz were class counsel in that case.

Cory Watson Attorneys is a national personal injury law firm with more than $2.7 billion in recoveries for clients. Attorneys are frequently appointed to leadership positions in national cases involving pharmaceuticals and defective medical devices. Practice areas include product liability, class actions, mass torts, pharmaceutical litigation, wrongful death, asbestos, mesothelioma, car accidents, truck accidents, catastrophic injury, aviation, recalled products and environmental litigation.

The law firm was the first in the state to establish a nationwide mass torts division solely devoted to representing multiple clients injured by harmful medical devices and drugs. Lawyers have personally represented clients across the United States in litigation involving more than 100 mass torts over the past 25 years.

Cory Watson lawyers are frequently appointed to serve as counsel and other leadership roles in multi-district litigation and class actions for clients in the U.S., Europe, South America, Central America, Canada, and Africa.