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Personal Injury Legal Cases

2001 Subaru Forester Defective Auto Parts Lead To Wrongful Death

SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA
COUNTY OF ORANGE

EMMA THAYER, a minor, Individually and as Successor In Interest to the Estate of LISA ANN THAYER, deceased, by and through her Guardian Ad Litem, GREGORY JONES, her father, Plaintiff, vs.
SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA AND DOES 1-50, Defendants.

CASE NO.: 30-2008-00109807
[UNLIMITED CIVIL]

PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT FOR WRONGFUL DEATH/SURVIVAL ACTION AND PERSONAL INJURIES

  1. Strict Product Liability
  2. Negligence (Product Liability)
  3. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Complaint filed:
Trial date: None

Comes now Plaintiff, EMMA THAYER, a minor, Individually and as Successor In Interest to the Estate of LISA ANN THAYER, deceased, by and through her Guardian Ad Litem, GREGORY JONES, her father, and for causes of action against Defendants, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA. AND DOES 1-50, and each of them, allege as follows.

ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO ALL CAUSES OF ACTION

  1. At all times herein mentioned, Plaintiff EMMA THAYER, was and is a minor, date of birth, October 19, 1999, and brings this action Individually and as Successor In Interest to the Estate of LISA ANN THAYER, deceased, by and through her Guardian Ad Litem, GREGORY JONES, her father.
  2. At all times herein mentioned prior to her death, LISA ANN THAYER, deceased, was a resident of the State of California.
  3. At all times herein mentioned Plaintiff EMMA THAYER, a minor, is a resident of the State of California.
  4. Plaintiff, EMMA THAYER, a minor, Individually and as Successor In Interest to the Estate of LISA ANN THAYER, deceased, was and is the lawful heir of the decedent, LISA ANN THAYER and brings this action as a survival action, pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.32, and also brings this action as a wrongful death action, pursuant to C.C.P. §377.60, for the wrongful death of her mother, LISA ANN THAYER.
  5. At all times mentioned in this Complaint, Defendants, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA AND DOES 1-50 and each of them, were individuals, corporations, partnerships, and/or associations residing in and/or authorized to and/or doing business in the State of California.
  6. At all times mentioned in this complaint, Defendant, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., is and was a New Jersey Corporation, with its principal place of business in Cherry Hills, New Jersey. Defendant, SOA is and was a citizen of the State of New Jersey. SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC. sells, markets, distributes and warrants automobiles including the Subaru Forester at issue.
  7. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant, FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN is a corporation organized under the laws of the Country of Japan, with its principal place of business in Tokyo, Japan with offices located in the City of Cypress, County of Orange, State of California. FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN sells, markets, distributes and warrants automobiles including the Subaru Forester at issue.
  8. At all times mentioned in this Complaint, Defendants, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA is and was a corporation under the laws of the Country of Sweden, with its principal place of business in Auburn Hills, Michigan with offices located in the City of Goleta, County of Santa Barbara, State of California. AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA designs, develops and manufactures occupant resistant components and systems for all major automotive manufacturers in the world. AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA's components and systems are therefore marketed and sold in automobiles throughout the world including the United States of America and the State of California. Defendant AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA designed, manufactured and sold the occupant restraint system equipped in the Subaru Forester at issue.
  9. The true names and/or capacities, whether individual, corporate associate, governmental or otherwise of defendant Does 1 through 50, inclusive and each of them are unknown to the Plaintiff, who therefore sues said defendants by such fictitious names. When the true names and/or capacities of said defendants are ascertained, the Plaintiff will seek leave of this Court to amend the Complaint accordingly.
  10. The Plaintiff is informed and believes, and based thereupon alleges, that each defendant designated herein as a Doe was responsible, negligently or in some other actionable manner, for the events and happenings herein referred to which proximately caused the damages to the Plaintiff as hereinafter alleged, either through said defendant's own negligence or through the conduct of its agents, servants, employees or representatives in some other manner.
  11. The Plaintiff is informed and believes and based thereupon alleges that at all times mentioned herein the defendants and each of them were the agents, servants, employees, representatives and/or joint venturers of their co-defendants and were, as such acting within the course, scope and authority of said agency, services, employment, representation and/or joint venture in that each and every defendant, as aforesaid when acting as principal, was negligent in the selection and hiring of each and every other defendant as an agent, servant, employee, representative and/or joint venturer.
  12. The Plaintiff is informed and believes, and based thereupon alleges that at all times mentioned herein each of the defendants, including Defendant Does 1 through 50, inclusive, and each of them were the agents, servants, employees, representatives of each of the remaining defendants and were at all times material hereto acting within the authorized course and scope of said agency, service, employment and/or representation, and/or that all of said acts, conduct and omissions were subsequently ratified by their respective principals and the benefits thereof accepted by such principals.
  13. At all times mentioned herein, Defendants, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and DOES 1 through 50, were and are engaged in the business of manufacturing, fabricating, designing, assembling, distributing, selling, inspecting, servicing, repairing, marketing, warranting, leasing, renting, selling, retailing, wholesaling and advertising a certain subject 2001 Subaru Forester, license plate number 024SDX, VIN JF1SF63511H756401 (hereinafter "SUBJECT VEHICLE"), and each and every component part thereof, which defendants knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, would be used without inspection for defects in its parts, mechanisms or design, for use in the State of California and elsewhere.
  14. At no time at or prior to such sale did said Defendants ever issue any warnings or notifications about any dangers or safety issues extant in the SUBJECT VEHICLE, nor did said Defendants ever advise the Plaintiff or the decedent LISA ANN THAYER, that the vehicle was not mechanically sound or unsafe to operate.
  15. On or about October 27, 2006, Plaintiff's decedent, LISA ANN THAYER, was a properly restrained driver of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, traveling west on Interstate I-40, approximately 1.6 miles east of Goffs Road in an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County, California, at highway speeds, when the SUBJECT VEHICLE quickly veered onto the south paved shoulder, rotated in a clockwise manner, swerved north across both westbound lanes off the roadway onto the desert area. The SUBJECT VEHICLE began to rollover a minimum of two full times causing personal injuries to the minor plaintiff and also causing catastrophic injuries to Plaintiff's decedent, before finally coming to rest upside down on its roof on the north desert area of westbound I-40 facing northeast.
  16. FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION - STRICT PRODUCT LIABILITY

    (Against Defendants, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., (SOA), FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and DOES 1 through 50, Inclusive)

  17. Plaintiff re-alleges and incorporates by reference each of paragraphs 1 through 15, above, as though fully set forth herein.
  18. Defendants, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., (SOA); FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and DOES 1 through 50, and each of them, knew that the SUBJECT VEHICLE was to be purchased and used without inspection for defects by the users of that vehicle including but not limited to the Plaintiff and Plaintiff's decedent.
  19. The SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts was manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, supplied, leased, rented, repaired, adjusted, selected and used with inherent vices and defects both in design and manufacturing and by failure to warn (hereinafter "SUBJECT DEFECTS") which made it dangerous, hazardous and unsafe both for its intended use or for reasonably foreseeable misuses.
  20. These SUBJECT DEFECTS included, but were not limited to the following.
    • Defective and unsafe restraint system, including but not limited to seat buckles, seatbelts, shoulder belts and retractors, defects including but not limited to inadequate latch plate casings, insufficient webbing, false latching, inertial unlatching, inadvertent unlatching, lack of pre-tensioners, retractor failure and belt webbing failure, which defendants and each of them knew and were aware would create dangerous spoolout and slack in the belt, causing and allowing critical abdominal lacerations to occur, and would fail to restrain an occupant in the event of a roll-over and/or side-slip/skid accident, and which, in this case, completely separated and thereby failed to restrain the Plaintiff's decedent LISA ANN THAYER, and which further facilitated the ejection of her body during the accident sequence, causing further fatal trauma to her.
    • Defective and unsafe window system which did not comply with and failed to fulfill the purposes of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 205 in that the window system did not reduce or mitigate injuries resulting from impact to the glazing surfaces and did not minimize the possibility of occupants being thrown through the vehicle windows in collisions. The entire window system, its frame and design of the structure, as part of the occupant retention system, failed to restrain the decedent and her body was partially ejected and thrown through the defective vehicle's window system during this roll over crash, causing fatal injuries to the decedent. Defendants knew and were aware that the window system of the SUBJECT VEHICLE would fail and create openings for occupant ejection in the event of a roll-over and/or side slip/skid accident, and which in this case, did create a portal in the driver's side door/window allowing the decedent, LISA ANN THAYER, to be ejected during the accident sequence, and causing ultimately fatal injuries. Despite the availability to defendants of the knowledge and technology to use window frame systems and side air curtains as part of an overall occupant retention system, defendants did not utilize such occupant retention window systems or side air curtains in the side and rear windows of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, which occupant retention window systems would have prevented the ejection of Plaintiff's decedent's body during the roll over and side slip/skid accident and the ultimately fatal injuries sustained by Plaintiff's decedent, LISA ANN THAYER during the accident sequence.
    • "A", "B", "C" and "D" pillars/windshield headers and roof rails fabricated without sufficient strength and structural integrity to withstand roof crushing forces without imparting injury-producing forces upon vehicle occupants during foreseeable accident rollovers of such vehicles.
    • Insufficient lateral and roll stability so as to keep the vehicle upright during cornering and handling by an ordinary driver during reasonably foreseeable roadway and traffic conditions, which Defendants at all times knew and were aware could and did cause substantial severe and life-threatening internal injuries when used in a reasonably foreseeable manner by a passenger of its vehicles, and which Defendants SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., (SOA); FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and each of them further knew and were aware would fail to keep the vehicle upright during cornering and handling by an ordinary driver during reasonably foreseeable roadway and traffic conditions. Despite the availability to defendants of the technology to include SUBARU'S vehicle stability enhancement system, which uses an array of sensors coupled with a master electronic control module to constantly monitor the driver's steering commands, and applies brake pressure and adjusts engine torque to help the driver get the vehicle back on track in the event of loss of lateral traction (side slip), understeer (plowing), or oversteer (fishtailing), defendants did not include such available electronic stability control systems in the SUBJECT VEHICLE, which systems would have prevented the roll over and side slip accident and the serious personal injuries sustained by plaintiff during the accident sequence;
    • Failure to warn regarding the above defects.
  21. 20 Said product and each of its component parts were unsafe for its intended use and reasonably foreseeable misuses by reason of the defects in its design and/or manufacturing and/or failure to warn by said Defendants, and each of them, in that when the SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts were used by Plaintiff's decedent, LISA ANN THAYER, on or about October 27, 2006, as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner, the SUBJECT VEHICLE, during reasonably foreseeable driving maneuvers, was dangerous and did suffer a loss of lateral control, and did rollover with defective restraints and fatally injured and ejected the decedent, LISA ANN THAYER, causing ultimately fatal injuries to Plaintiff's decedent, LISA ANN THAYER, legally resulting in Plaintiff's damages as set forth herein.
  22. As a direct and legal result of the defects in the SUBJECT VEHICLE and its components and subcomponents, Plaintiff has suffered wrongful death damages, including special and general damages in a sum in excess of the minimum subject matter jurisdiction of this Superior Court according to proof at trial.
  23. As a further direct and legal result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, Plaintiff EMMA THAYER, a minor, has suffered the loss of her mother's consortium, including a loss of love, companionship, comfort, attention, society, solace, moral support, and has further suffered the loss of her financial assistance, and has also incurred funeral and burial expenses, all to Plaintiff's damages in a sum in excess of the minimum subject matter jurisdiction of this Superior Court according to proof at trial.
  24. As a further and direct result of the conduct of defendants and each of them, plaintiff EMMA THAYER, a minor, suffered severe personal injuries, including witnessing the fatal injuries to her mother, has incurred medical expenses and sustained permanent injuries and pain and suffering, all to this Plaintiff's damages in a sum in excess of the minimum subject matter jurisdiction of this Superior Court according to proof at trial.
  25. Plaintiff is further informed and believes and thereon alleges that Defendants SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., (SOA); FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and DOES 1 through 50, and each of them intentionally engaged in conduct which, with respect to the SUBJECT DEFECTS which Plaintiff alleges were a legal cause of their loss, damages, injuries and harm, further exposed Plaintiff and Plaintiff's decedent and other users of the SUBJECT VEHICLE to serious potential danger known to said Defendants in order to advance the Defendants' pecuniary interests and thus acted with a conscious disregard for the safety of the Plaintiff and other users of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, warranting an award of exemplary damages against Defendants SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., (SOA); FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and DOES 26 through 50, pursuant to California Civil Code § 3294, and the rule enunciated in Ford Motor Co. v. Home Ins. Co. (1981) 116 Cal. App.3d 374, 381-382 and PPG Industries, Inc v. Transamerica Ins. Co. (1996) 49 Cal. App.4th 1120. The facts supporting the Defendants' intentional conduct which exposed Plaintiff and other users of the SUBJECT VEHICLE to serious potential danger known to the Defendants in order to advance the Defendants' pecuniary interests, are on information and belief, as follows.
    • Since 1970, defendants and each of them have been aware that use of unsupported, tempered glass in the side and rear windows of their vehicles was contributing to serious occupant ejection problems in side impact and rollover accidents. In 1970, Roger P. Daniel, a Ford research engineer, published the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Technical Paper 700423, which Defendants and each of them received and/or participated in, in which Mr. Daniel reported that "the increasing use of unsupported tempered side glass appears to have adversely influenced the frequency of partial and complete occupant ejection through the side glass areas." Mr. Daniel recommended that in order to better retain vehicle occupants completely within the passenger compartment during accidents, the use of a substantial metal framework along with the use of laminated glass, similar to that used in current American windshields, (or ejection resistant glazing) would achieve maximum durability and minimum laceration potential. In spite of the clear explanation of the problem and a feasible solution that would save lives, defendants and each of them ignored such data and have failed to take action to use appropriate materials to prevent vehicle occupant ejection by using a substantial metal framework along with laminated glass or ejection resistant glazing.
    • In addition, in 1984, the U.S. Government, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published SAE Technical Paper 840390; and in 1985, SAE Technical Paper 851203, and in 1989, SAE Technical Paper 890218, which set forth the analysis and testing by NHTSA Researchers Carl C. Clark and Peter Sursi, of alternative glazing opportunities to reduce or eliminate ejection and resulting injuries and fatalities. In the 1989 report, NHTSA advised Defendants that ejection was involved in about 25% of all passenger car fatalities and 40% of light truck and van fatalities and that ejection through unsupported glass areas, in a specific passenger car study, accounted for about 60% of all ejections. NHTSA reported their own dynamic roll over tests demonstrating that a modified frame, along with either laminated windshield-type glass or other glass-plastic glazing could eliminate most ejections through glass openings. Defendants and each of them received and/or participated in these NHSTA studies and SAE Technical Papers and in spite of this knowledge and awareness, defendants ignored and suppressed data, and further falsely mis-characterized adverse test data which the Defendants knew at the time tended to prove that the window systems being used in the rear and side windows of their trucks, vans, sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-ups were defective and unsafe in real world rollover and/or side skid accidents, and would and did expose members of the public and users of said Defendants' trucks, SUVs and vans to death and serious head and spinal injuries due to the insufficient and defective window systems being used in such vehicles.
    • In 1995, the NHTSA issued a report entitled, "Ejection Mitigation Using Advanced Glazings: A Status Report," which report further documented the size of the problem and described the testing NHTSA had done with an alternative design, a prototype glazing system using a modified door and modified glazing materials.
    • Moreover, after Defendants, in concert with other auto manufacturers, provided no constructive response to the NHTSA data on elimination of most ejections through glass openings, NHTSA convened a public meeting in Washington, D.C., in 1996, during which NHTSA presented detailed test data, cost analysis and manufacturing lead time data on several alternative designs that included alternative glazing proposals, estimating the reduction in fatalities and incapacitating injuries, such as the decedent's here, that would result from alternative designs with improved glazing. For rollover accident fatalities, an 86% reduction in deaths was projected for the driver and a 90% reduction in deaths for passengers. For incapacitating injuries in rollovers, NHTSA projected a 68% reduction for drivers and a 63% reduction for passengers. Defendants' representatives were present at this meeting and simply responded that all drivers and passengers do not always use seat belts, flatly ignoring those statistics that evidence the drivers and passengers who do wear seat belts and are injured or killed due to the defective restraint systems that are defective and fail, as set forth herein. In fact, many partially ejected and fatally or seriously injured occupants, such as the occupant in this case, are in fact belted, yet those restraint systems fail.
    • In August 1999, NHTSA published another report entitled, Ejection Mitigation Using Advanced Glazing: Status Report II, which estimates that alternative window system designs with either laminated glass or other advanced glazing systems would reduce annual fatalities by 500 to 1300 each year. Defendants, again, received and/or participated in this report, yet the only reason defendants have not used inherently safer window system designs with either laminated glass or other alternative glazing is and was to save money in an environment where they knew, through various questionable inter-manufacturer contacts, that their competition would similarly save money rather than use readily available technology to save lives and prevent injuries.
    • Finally, in August 2001, NHTSA published its final report entitled "Ejection Mitigation Using Advanced Glazing: Final Report." In that report, NHTSA provided the Defendants with the evaluation and testing of four different alternative designs for window/door/glazing systems. Four types of glazing were evaluated: high penetration resistant (HPR) trilaminates, non-HPR trilaminates, bilaminates and polycarbonates. The prototype systems included modifications to the front door window frames to provide improved occupant retention, while maintaining the window's ability to be operative. Preliminary estimates showed incremental production costs of $48 - $79 per vehicle. The results indicated that all but the non-high penetration resistant (HPR) trilaminates had good potential for providing adequate occupant retention. NHTSA's final report indicates: Advanced glazing systems have the potential to yield significant safety benefits by reducing partial and complete ejections through side windows, particularly in rollover crashes. However, because NHTSA did not require that the alternative designs it tested for window/door systems be used, and NHTSA also recognized that other safety countermeasures could also prevent ejections, Defendants did nothing to prevent ejection. The 2001 NHTSA report specifically recommended to automobile manufacturers that advanced glazing systems be evaluated as one component of comprehensive ejection prevention and mitigation strategies that include alternative ejection countermeasures such as inflatable head protection and/or rollover protection systems.
    • Despite the longstanding recommendations of knowledgeable and caring automotive engineers, and in spite of the known roll over propensity of Defendants' light trucks, vans and SUVs, and despite the ten year study of the issue of ejection by NHTSA and its recommendations of alternative window/door system designs to prevent ejection, Defendants chose to ignore the inherent safety problem of roll over occupant ejection, and took no action to prevent such debilitating injuries and deaths, because of concern about cost penalties. Defendants' decision to save money at the expense of innocent human life and pain and suffering constitutes, despicable conduct and callous disregard for the safety of the motoring public, including Plaintiff's Decedent. Defendants' failure to act is enhanced by the similar acts of their competitors, and is shameful and shocking that such a large, powerful and influential industry has for years conspired to resist obvious major opportunities to improve motor vehicle safety by improving the design of the window systems in automobiles, trucks, vans and SUVs, all to advance their own pecuniary interest.
  26. Defendants have also acted with a callous disregard for the safety of Plaintiff and the motoring public with respect to eliminating or reducing the injuries and deaths due to the defective roofs and roof designs of their vehicles' which have a greater propensity to roll, namely, Defendants' trucks, vans and SUVs. Since 1968, Defendants and each of them have known and been placed upon notice contemporaneously as a result of crash data, in-house testing, field-service reports, and published studies that actual users of and passengers carried within pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs manufactured by said Defendants and each of them, including but not limited to, the SUBJECT VEHICLE, were susceptible to accident forces exceeding 8,000 Newtons which forces were more than sufficient to cause and bring about, and which accident forces were and are causing and bringing about, serious and substantial head and neck injuries during rollovers when such trucks, vans, and SUVs, and the SUBJECT VEHICLE were and are actually used by such users of these trucks and members of the public as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
    • Since 1968, Defendants and each of them have known and been placed upon notice contemporaneously as a result of the information described herein, that the A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails of such trucks, vans, and SUVs, and the SUBJECT VEHICLE, must be manufactured and fabricated to withstand rollover crushing forces of at least 8,000 Newtons in order adequately to protect users of these trucks and members of the public from serious injuries and/or death from crushing of the roofs of such vehicles during rollovers when such trucks, vans, and SUVs, and the SUBJECT VEHICLE were and are actually being used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
    • In or about 1983 and 1984, Chrysler and Anthony Sances of the Medical College of Wisconsin published industry studies of which Defendants and each of them were in receipt and on notice, which further established that the A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails of such trucks, vans, and SUVs, and the SUBJECT VEHICLE, must be manufactured and fabricated to withstand rollover crushing forces of at least 8,000 Newtons in order adequately to protect users of these trucks and members of the public from serious injuries and/or death from crushing of the roofs of such vehicles during rollovers when such trucks, vans, and SUVs, and the SUBJECT VEHICLE were and are actually used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
    • In 1984, Defendants and each of them, published Hybrid III crash dummy specifications for a catastrophic compressive neck injury of 4,000 Newtons at the load cell (i.e., the base of the human head) when they knew at that time that such forces were approximately one-half of the crushing forces Defendants knew at the time from Cadaver and other studies in their possession, were minimally necessary to effect head and neck injuries, which actions were taken to establish a false set of rollover crush force minima which were not representative of actual rollover accident conditions, and which were intended by said Defendants to and which in fact did falsely lead the public and regulatory bodies of the U.S. Government to believe that the trucks, vans and SUVs manufactured by the Defendants and each of them had sufficiently fortified A, B, C and D Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails within such trucks, vans, and SUVs, and the SUBJECT VEHICLE so as to be able to withstand rollover crush forces of 4,000 Newtons.
    • In fact this was half of the roof crush impact forces said Defendants and each of them knew were actually being sustained in such rollover accidents, and which rollover crush forces said Defendants, and each of them knew, were well beyond the actual structural prophylactic limitations of the A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails said Defendants were using and continued to use within such trucks, vans, and SUVs, and the SUBJECT VEHICLE, such that said Defendants knew and intended that members of the public and users of such vehicles were being exposed and would continue to be exposed to death and serious injuries from the crushing of the roofs of such vehicles during rollovers when such trucks, vans, and SUVs, and the SUBJECT VEHICLE were and are actually being used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
    • In 1985, as a result of information which had come to light as a result of rollover crush accident data, in-house testing, field-service reports, and published studies, Defendants and each of them published a position paper detailing rollover roof crush studies said Defendants claimed to have performed in-house (during calendar years 1983 and 1984) (hereinafter "MALIBU 1 TEST RESULTS"). Said Defendants and each of them knew and intended that the MALIBU 1 TEST RESULTS falsely concluded and misrepresented, based upon the 1983 to 1984 testing performed by said Defendants and the data obtained therefrom, that:
      1. 4,000 Newtons was the reasonable average rollover crush force delivered and extant in typical rollover crush accidents, when in fact defendants knew that the actual rollover impact forces were twice that number, i.e., at least 8,000 Newtons;
      2. That a videotaped excerpt from the testing data which showed substantial injuries being delivered to the head of a test subject were merely a contact patch, and not an actual instance of a rollover crush injury, when in fact Defendants knew at the time that this was not the case;
      3. That the roof strength of the A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails which use half-sections of roll tubing ("OPEN SECTIONS") are just as secure and will prevent rollover crush injuries just as effectively as complete roll tubing ("CLOSED SECTIONS"), which said Defendants knew at the time was false;
      4. That the roof strength of the A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails were just as effective and secure and would and did prevent rollover crush injuries just as effectively in a production model trucks as in a roll-caged trucks, when in fact said Defendants knew this was false.
  27. Defendants and each of them therein further knowingly falsified their test results, ignored and suppressed data, and further falsely mis-characterized adverse test data which said Defendants knew at the time tended to prove that their trucks, vans and SUVs and the SUBJECT VEHICLE were defective and unsafe in real world rollover accidents, and would and did expose members of the public and users of said Defendants' trucks, SUVs, vans and the SUBJECT VEHICLE, to death and serious head and spinal injuries in the MALIBU 1 TEST RESULTS due to the insufficient strength of the A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails in such vehicles.
  28. After demands were made by litigants and other members of the public following the 1985 publication of the MALIBU 1 TEST RESULTS, said Defendants and each of them intentionally spoliated and destroyed critical test evidence and test documentation upon which the MALIBU 1 TEST RESULTS were allegedly based, so as to prevent discovery of the falsehoods and misrepresentations made by said Defendants in the MALIBU 1 TEST RESULTS, and to prevent disclosure of the fact that said Defendants knew that they were knowingly and intentionally exposing users of said Defendants' trucks, SUVs, vans and Pick-Up's, including Plaintiff, to death and serious head and spinal injuries in the MALIBU 1 TEST RESULTS due to the insufficient strength of the A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails installed in such vehicles.
  29. In 1990, Defendants and each of them again published a second position paper detailing rollover roof crush studies said Defendants claimed to have performed in-house (hereinafter "MALIBU 2 TEST RESULTS"), in which results said Defendants knowingly and intentionally falsified test data: defendants and each of them knew and intended that the MALIBU 2 TEST RESULTS falsely concluded and misrepresented, based upon the 1983 to 1984 testing performed by the said Defendants and the data obtained therefrom, that:
    • The test data conducted and upon which the MALIBU 2 TEST RESULTS were based, supported the conclusion that 4,000 Newtons was the reasonable average rollover crush force delivered and extant in typical rollover crush accidents, when in fact said defendants knew that the actual rollover impact forces were twice that number, i.e., at least 8,000 Newtons;
    • That the restraint systems in said Defendants' trucks, vans, and SUVs, including the SUBJECT VEHICLE, were effective to prevent head contact with the roof structures during times when rolling vehicles were inverted, when in fact said Defendants and each of them had used and implemented standing pelvis dummies which did not engage or place any genuine "loads" upon the restraint systems involved to begin with, for the purposes of falsely leading the public and governmental regulators into believing that existing restraint systems were adequate to mitigate roof crushing rollover injuries, when in fact Defendants knew that this was false;
    • Centrifugal forces extant in the genuinely prototypical rollover crush accident were insignificant, unreasonable angles and vectors of impact forces were appropriate and proper when said Defendants and each of them in fact knew that such angles and vectors were not representative of real accident conditions and understated and/or outright misrepresented real accident conditions so as to falsely lead the public and government regulators to conclude the roof structures were of adequate strength, when said Defendants knew this to be false, that drop testing procedures were injury irrelevant (as they were knowingly performed by said Defendants from unrealistic heights), and that rolling "spit" test procedures proved that members of the public would sustain injury regardless of roof component strength, when in fact Defendants knew at that time that all such conclusions were false.
  30. Defendants and each of them therein further knowingly falsified their test results, ignored and suppressed data, and further falsely mischaracterized adverse test data which said Defendants knew at the time tended to prove that their trucks, vans, SUVs; and Pick-Up's were defective and unsafe in real world rollover accidents, and would and did expose members of the public and users of said Defendants' trucks, SUVs and vans to death and serious head and spinal injuries in the MALIBU 2 TEST RESULTS due to the insufficient strength of the A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails in such vehicles.
  31. At all times mentioned herein, Defendants and each of them were aware that use of complete sections, thicker steel and stronger materials in A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails was at all times mechanically feasible, posed no adverse consequences to consumers or to said Defendants' trucks, vans and SUVs, and were only marginally more expensive to implement, which use of complete sections, thicker steel and stronger materials in A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails would withstand rollover impact forces of in excess of 8,000 Newtons and thus would prevent death and serious injuries in most actual rollover accident cases, including that accident which is the subject of this action.
  32. At all times herein mentioned, on information and belief, Defendants and each of them knew and were aware that members of the public were suffering from death and serious injuries in rollover accidents which involved roof crushing forces in said Defendants' trucks, vans, and SUVs as a result of said Defendants' failure to use complete sections, thicker steel and stronger materials in A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails of said Defendants' vehicles.
  33. At all times mentioned herein, despite the fact that Defendants and each of them were aware that use of complete sections, thicker steel and stronger materials in A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails was at all times mechanically feasible, posed no adverse consequences to consumers or to said Defendants' trucks, vans and SUVs, were only marginally more expensive to implement, and would have prevented deaths and serious injuries in most actual rollover accident cases, including that accident which is the subject of this action, said Defendants intentionally refused to use complete sections, thicker steel and stronger materials in A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails of their trucks, vans and SUVs: (1) to avoid the increased expense of using such improvements in their vehicles (including costs of redesign, more extensive materials, retooling, re-certification expenditures and other costs of implementation), so as to preserve and widen said Defendants' profit margin on the sales of such vehicles; (2) to avoid disclosure during re-certification and retooling processes of the fact that said Defendants knew their previously-manufactured trucks, vans, and SUVs: A-Pillars/Windshield headers and roof rails were of insufficient strength to withstand even modest actual rollover accidents without the risks of serious injuries and death to users of such vehicles, which would greatly increase said Defendants' legal exposure in cases brought arising from rollovers of production vehicles already in use by the public; and (3) to avoid taking action which would result in disclosures leading to an expensive recall campaign by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
  34. Plaintiff is informed and believes and further thereon alleges that, from 1987 onward, Defendants, in concert with other auto makers, conducted studies including, but not limited to, the "Sedona project," to determine the extent to which the use of laminated glass windshields could be used in the stead and in place of stronger materials resistant to foreseeable roof crush for the purposes of meeting other inadequate and insufficient Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards ("FMVSS") testing not replicating real world roof crush events, all for the purposes of saving the Defendants money and advancing their pecuniary interests by reducing costs of production and increasing profits, despite knowing at all times relevant that during a real world roof crush event, the windshield will universally and always fracture instantaneously losing its structural strength and thus instantaneously depriving occupants of the SUBJECT VEHICLE of any genuine sufficient protection from catastrophic and/or fatal injuries as a result of the roof crush forces. At the same time Defendants thus were reducing the strength of the SUBJECT VEHICLE's roof to be able to withstand foreseeable and statistically inevitable real world roof crush events, in order to effectuate cost savings and increase profits to the detriment of the safety of the public using such vehicles, thus exhibiting a willful and conscious disregard of such public's safety, as alleged herein, Defendants and each of them advertised and marketed their vehicles as safe, rugged and steady "like a rock," which in fact Defendants knew at all times they were making such representations that their SUBJECT VEHICLE and other similar SUBARU Trucks would be likely to leave occupants of the vehicle totally unprotected from catastrophic injuries and death from roof crushing forces during statistically inevitable and foreseeable rollover incidents.
  35. Defendants AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and DOES 1 through 50, Inclusive, all further knew and were well aware from numerous, prior accidents, injuries, lawsuits and claims, that their seat belt buckles and restraints systems furnished for installation in the SUBJECT VEHICLE, were prone to false and inertial unlatching, and inadvertent unlatching from slight inadvertent but fully foreseeable contact with the buckle latch during an accident sequence, and that such seat belt buckles would in fact unlatch and leave properly-restrained occupants of the SUBJECT VEHICLE suddenly unrestrained and susceptible to ejection during an accident when otherwise properly restrained at the commencement of the accident, yet said Defendants and each of them intentionally elected not to effectuate corrections to the design and/or manufacture of such buckles and restraints systems, thus knowingly and intentionally exposing Plaintiffs and other occupants of vehicles such as the SUBJECT VEHICLE to death and serious injury all to advance said Defendants' pecuniary interests in the form of avoiding increased expense of effectuating improvements in their buckles and restraints systems (including costs of redesign, more extensive materials, retooling, re-certification expenditures and other costs of implementation), so as to preserve and widen said Defendants' profit margin on the sales of such components; (2) to avoid disclosure during re-certification and retooling processes of the fact that said Defendants knew their previously-manufactured buckles and restraints systems were defective and unsafe, which would greatly increase adverse publicity and said Defendants' legal exposure in cases brought arising from accident and injuries occurring in production vehicles already in use by the public; and (3) to avoid taking action which would result in disclosures potentially leading to an expensive recall campaign by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
  36. The actions of said Defendants and each of them, as herein described, were thus undertaken with a willful and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of consumers and users of said Defendants trucks, vans and SUVs, including the SUBJECT VEHICLE, in order to advance the pecuniary gains of the Defendants and each of them, and were despicable because such aforesaid conduct would and does kill people, and cause serious and life changing injuries, including but not limited to permanent paralysis, including but not limited to the Plaintiff, during the course of the accident which is the subject of this lawsuit.
  37. Plaintiff further alleges that the conduct of the Defendants was undertaken with the result that the SUBJECT VEHICLE's ultimate defects in its design and production were fully intended by the Defendants to reside therein such that they were and are the product of the entire corporate management and corporate policy of the Defendants with respect to the conscious willful and disregard of public safety for Defendants' pecuniary gain with regard to the design, manufacture, production and marketing of the SUBJECT VEHICLE.
  38. As a direct and legal result of the aforementioned conduct of Defendants and each of them, an award of exemplary and punitive damages against Defendants SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., (SOA), FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and DOES 26 through 50, and each of them is proper and appropriate to punish said Defendants and to deter such conduct in the future.
  39. SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

    (Negligence Product Liability Against Defendants, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., (SOA), FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and DOES 1 through 50 Inclusive)

  40. Plaintiff incorporates, repeats and re-alleges each and every allegation in paragraphs 1 through 37, inclusive, and hereby incorporates the same by reference as though set forth in detail.
  41. At all times mentioned, Defendants and each of them, had a duty to properly manufacture, design, assemble, package, test, fabricate, analyze, inspect, merchandise, market, distribute, label, advertise, promote, sell, supply, lease, rent, warn, select, inspect and repair said product and each of its component parts.
  42. At all times mentioned, Defendants and each of them and DOES 26 through 50 knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known that said SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its components parts were not properly manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, supplied, leased, rented, repaired, selected and provided inadequate warnings for the use and purpose for which it was intended in that it was likely to injure the person who used said product, each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides.
  43. Defendants, and each of them, so negligently and carelessly, manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, modified, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, supplied, leased, rented, repaired, selected and provided inadequate warnings and provided said SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts so that the same was a defective and dangerous product, unsafe for the respective use and purpose for which it was intended when used and driven as recommended or for reasonably foreseeable misuse by members of the public, including plaintiff. In particular, the SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts during a reasonably foreseeable maneuver was unstable, dangerous and would rollover with roof crushing instability causing injury and death to its occupants, as alleged herein. In addition, the SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts during a reasonably foreseeable driving maneuver made with due care was unstable and dangerous.
  44. As a direct and legal result of the negligence, carelessness, and unlawful conduct of the Defendants, and each of them, and the defects inherent in the vehicle, Plaintiff has suffered the wrongful death damages as alleged herein.
  45. THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION - NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

    Against all Defendants by Plaintiff EMMA THAYER

  46. Plaintiffs incorporate by reference as though fully set forth herein paragraphs 1 through 42 above.
  47. Plaintiff EMMA THAYER suffered serious emotional distress as a result of perceiving the serious injuries and danger to the other occupants of the vehicle, who were members of their families.
    • Plaintiff, EMMA THAYER, observed her mother being ejected from the vehicle, seriously injured and die.
  48. As described above, defendants negligently caused the serious injuries and death to the plaintiff EMMA THAYER and the decedent, by reason of the defects inherent in the SUBJECT VEHICLE, which were caused by reason of Defendants' breach of their duties of care to properly manufacture, design, assemble, package, test, fabricate, analyze, inspect, merchandise, market, distribute, label, advertise, promote, sell, supply, lease, rent, warn, select, inspect and repair the SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts and/or after market parts and/or installation guides.
  49. At all times mentioned, defendants and each of them and DOES 1 through 100 knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known that said SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its components parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides was not properly manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, supplied, leased, rented, repaired, selected and provided inadequate warnings for the use and purpose for which it was intended in that it was likely to injure the persons who used said product, each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides.
  50. Defendants, and each of them, so negligently and carelessly, manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, modified, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, supplied, leased, rented, repaired, selected and provided inadequate warnings and provided said SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides so that the same was a defective and dangerous product, unsafe for the respective use and purpose for which it was intended when used and driven as recommended or for reasonably foreseeable misuse by said defendants and each of them. In particular, said SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides during a reasonably foreseeable maneuver was unstable, dangerous and would rollover with roof crushing instability causing injury to its occupants, as alleged above. In addition, the glass and glazing of the rear and side windows of the SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides during a reasonably foreseeable driving maneuver made with due care were defective and dangerous in that the glass shattered, creating openings or portals causing the plaintiffs to be partially and / or totally ejected from the vehicle, suffering serious personal and laceration injuries, and death of the decedent, LISA ANN THAYER.
  51. Plaintiff EMMA THAYER was present in the vehicle while it was rolling and was aware that her mother was being seriously injured when ejected from the vehicle, cut and lacerated by the broken glass, and her body smashed when the roof crushed inward, and LISA ANN THAYER was ejected from the vehicle. As a direct and legal result of the Defendants' negligence, carelessness, and unlawful conduct and the defects inherent in the vehicle, plaintiff EMMA THAYER suffered serious emotional distress, including but not limited to suffering, anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry shock, humiliation, and shame, such that an ordinary, reasonable person would be unable to cope with the serious emotional distress.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for judgment against Defendants and each of them, as follows.

  1. For special and economic damages including, medical expenses, loss of past and future earnings and earning capacity, according to proof at trial;
  2. For general damages including damages for loss of wrongful death, personal injuries, pain and suffering and permanency;
  3. For prejudgment interest, as determined by and accrued according to applicable statutes;
  4. For costs of suit incurred herein;
  5. For exemplary and punitive damages on the first and second causes of action only, against Defendants SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., (SOA), FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD. OF JAPAN, AUTOLIV NORTH AMERICA and Does 1-50, only, by EMMA THAYER, a minor, only in her capacity as the successor in interest to the Estate of LISA ANN THAYER, deceased; and
  6. For any other and further relief the Court deems just and proper.

DATED: JULY, 2008 Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys

By:__________________________________
BRIAN D. CHASE, Esq.
JOHN V. BELL, Esq.
Attorneys for Plaintiff

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