Phoenix, Arizona: Directed Verdict for BMW

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Bowman and Brooke LLP Leads BMW to Favorable Verdict in Strict Liability Crashworthiness Case

On April 17, 2013, after more than a week of trial, the court directed a verdict in favor of BMW after plaintiffs rested their strict liability crashworthiness case. In this multi-million dollar claim, according to court documents, plaintiffs alleged that defects in the vehicle's side impact head protection airbag resulted in a severe head injury. Susana H. Sara and Hikmat S. Tammo, wife and husband, Plaintiffs, v. BMW of North America, LLC, a Delaware corporation; and Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft, a foreign corporation, Defendants, Superior Court of the State of Arizona, in and for the County of Maricopa, Case No. CV2009-025065, Judge John Rea presiding.

The trial involved an August 13, 2007 crash in Glendale, Arizona. According to court documents, Plaintiff Susana Sara, then age 51, turned her 2004 BMW 325i four-door sedan left from a shopping center exit directly into the path of a Toyota 4Runner sport utility vehicle traveling at approximately 50 miles per hour. Before the initial impact, the driver of the 4Runner attempted a sharp right hand evasive turn, causing the left front corner of the 4Runner to impact the BMW in the center of its driver's door. The impact crushed the driver's door and propelled the BMW approximately 63 feet.

According to court records, Plaintiff Sara was restrained by the 325i's three-point driver's seat belt, and the vehicle's side impact torso and head protection airbags deployed in the crash. Mrs. Sara sustained a left diaphramatic rupture, fractured pelvis, thoracic aortic injury, small bowel injury, left frontotemporal hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and laceration to her left forearm. Plaintiff Tammo alleged loss of consortium and services. Plaintiffs claimed over $5.1 million dollars in special and non-economic losses.

As indicated in court documents, Plaintiffs argued that a defect in the BMW's side impact head protection airbag caused their injuries. Specifically, plaintiffs contended that BMW should have equipped the 325i with a side curtain airbag rather than the tubular shaped airbag used in the vehicle. BMW responded with evidence that the 325i was safe and defect free, fully complied with federal motor vehicle safety standards and provided industry-leading state-of-the-art crash protection for 2004 model year vehicles. BMW also presented evidence through one of plaintiffs' own experts that the airbag mitigated Mrs. Sara's head injury to the point of saving her life.

Following the directed verdict, BMW's lead counsel, Paul Cereghini commented:

On cross examination, plaintiffs' biomechanical engineering expert ultimately admitted that the BMW vehicle and its side impact head protection airbag saved Mrs. Sara's life, as BMW had said all along. BMW was the first motor vehicle manufacturer to introduce this important side impact head protection technology. The trial established that BMW's vehicle was safe and defect free and that its head protection airbag worked as designed to enable Mrs. Sara to survive a very severe crash.

Mr. Cereghini is an Executive Managing Partner for the national product liability defense firm of Bowman and Brooke LLP.

Plaintiffs' experts were vehicle design engineer, William E. Gest, of Phoenix, Arizona; accident reconstructionist, Michael J. Shepston of Cave Creek, Arizona; biomechanic, Robert D. Anderson of Tempe, Arizona; economist, Dr. David W. Orlowski of Scottsdale, Arizona; neuropsychologist, Dr. John T. Beck, Jr. of Scottsdale, Arizona; and osteopathic physician, Dr. Arthur M. Taylor of Phoenix, Arizona.

BMW's experts were vehicle design engineer, Jeffrey Croteau of Natick, Massachusetts; occupant protection and airbag design and performance engineer, Jeffery L. Pearson of Rochester, Michigan; crash reconstructionist, Dr. Geoffrey J. Germane of Provo, Utah; biomechanic, Dr. Robert D. Banks of San Antonio, Texas; statistical risk analyst, Dr. Rose M. Ray of Menlo Park, California; and neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Hal Wortzel of Denver, Colorado.

BMW's lead counsel was Paul G. Cereghini of Bowman and Brooke LLP, Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Cereghini's co-counsel were Jeffrey C. Warren and Bryan J. Blehm of Bowman and Brooke LLP.

Plaintiffs' lead counsel was G. Lynn Shumway of Lynn Shumway Law Offices of Phoenix, Arizona.

Paul G. Cereghini is a Bowman and Brooke Executive Managing Partner. He can be reached at 602-643-2400 or at paul(dot)cereghini(at)bowmanandbrooke(dot)com.

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Katherine Herring

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