Our firm settled a very important case last month just a few days before trial was set to start in federal court in Opelika, Alabama. On the day she was injured, our client drove her 2002 Mountaineer SUV to make a payment at her local insurance office. Because the insurance company had her paperwork ready, our client merely had to drop off the payment at the front desk. When she parked her SUV at the insurance company front door, she left the vehicle running and left her six-month-old daughter and two-year-old niece buckled in their car seats while she dropped off her payment. After she left her payment at the desk, she walked back outside to her SUV to find her two-year-old niece standing in the driver’s seat. When the child turned to move to the rear seat, the SUV lurched forward and pinned our client against the insurance company building. As a result of her crushing injuries, our client’s left leg was amputated above the knee and her right leg developed a serious swelling condition known as lymphedema.
During the course of our investigation, our engineering expert discovered that the SUV was equipped with a safety device known as a brake transmission shift interlock (BTSI). The purpose of the BTSI is to prevent the gear shift lever from being moved from park into gear without the operator first stepping on the brake pedal. Our expert discovered that the BTSI in our client’s SUV suffered from a design defect that sometimes prevented it from operating properly. Specifically, on occasion, when the operator shifted the SUV into park, the BTSI failed to lock the shift lever in park. As a result, the gear shift lever could be moved from park into gear without requiring that the operator first step on the brake.
On the day she was injured, the defective BTSI allowed our client’s niece to inadvertently move the shift lever into a forward gear. Clearly this is a very dangerous defect and we were prepared to present the jury with overwhelming evidence of the defect and safer alternative designs which would have prevented this tragedy.
The case was settled on the eve of trial with the amount being confidential. Our client was well-satisfied with the settlement and can now get on with her life. Mike Andrews, who represented our client, is currently investigating several other instances where a vehicle moved after being placed in park and killed or seriously injured someone outside the vehicle. He may be reached at 800-898-2034 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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