A family involved in a triple fatal crash that happened two years ago has filed suit against Toyota, saying the carmaker’s FJ Cruiser lacked a proper impact-management system, which caused it to burst into flames. The head-on crash occurred March 22, 2011, about three miles west of Hesperus on U.S. Highway 160 near Durango, Texas. Leslie McDonald and her son Kellen McDonald, then 12, each suffered burns to 60 and 70 percent of their bodies. Mrs. McDonald’s husband, Robert McDonald, and their other son Jaden, 10, were killed in the fiery crash.
David James Hooper, 51, also died in the crash. Hooper, who was under the influence of painkillers at the time of the accident, drifted across the double-yellow line and collided head-on with the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Both vehicles caught fire. It’s alleged in the complaint filed in federal court that a design flaw caused a “catastrophic failure” of the vehicle’s fuel-storage management and delivery systems. More specifically, it’s alleged that the 2008 FJ Cruiser’s impact-absorbing body structure and frame crumple zones did not operate properly and failed to provide the McDonald family with a reasonable degree of protection.
It’s alleged that when the two vehicles crashed head-on, the pickup truck’s drive shaft penetrated the Toyota vehicle’s fuel system, causing vapor and liquid gasoline to come into contact with a number of ignition sources and catch fire. It’s alleged further that Toyota had knowledge of the risk or should have had knowledge of the risk. The lawsuit seeks damages for the surviving family members, who have undergone great mental, physical and emotional suffering. Those Plaintiffs allege they also have suffered permanent disability, have incurred extensive medical expenses, will continue to have expenses into the future and have experienced lost earnings.
Hooper was traveling westbound in a pickup truck when his vehicle crossed the center line and entered the eastbound lane. Both cars were traveling about 65 mph, the posted speed limit, and collided almost directly head-on. Both vehicles caught fire and burned to their shells in the middle of the highway. Leslie McDonald and her son Kellen were able to exit the vehicle. Mrs. McDonald was on fire, and passers-by helped stabilize her and her son, according to law enforcement. Richard Hood, a Denver lawyer with Andrus Hood & Wagstaff, represents the Plaintiffs in this case.
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