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2003 Ford F250 Super Duty Pickup Truck Rolls Over Due To Unstable Steering System, Results In Severe Injuries, Wrongful Death

SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, CENTRAL DISTRICT

EDWARD BATES, MATTHEW GISMONDI, DARLEGNE HILLENBRAND, JONATHAN BATES, individually and as successors in interest to the estate of LOIS JEAN BATES, deceased, Plaintiffs,
vs.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, a Delaware Corporation; PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC., a California Corporation, d/b/a SUPER PUENTE HILLS FORD; HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC., a California Corporation, d/b/a PUENTE HILLS FORD; TUTTLE CLICK FORD, INC., a California Corporation; and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants.

Case No.: CIVVS 804173
[UNLIMITED CIVIL]

COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES FOR PERSONAL INJURIES, WRONGFUL DEATH, SURVIVAL ACTION FOR:

  1. Strict Product Liability
  2. Negligent Product Liability
  3. Negligent Maintenance and Repair
  4. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

COME NOW, Plaintiffs, EDWARD BATES, MATTHEW GISMONDI, DARLEGNE HILLENBRAND, and JONATHAN BATES, individually and as successors in interest to the estate of LOIS JEAN BATES, deceased, and for causes of action against defendants, and each of them, allege as follows.

COMMON ALLEGATIONS FOR ALL CAUSES OF ACTION

  1. At all times herein mentioned, Plaintiffs were and are individuals and residents of the State of California.
  2. At all times herein mentioned, prior to her death, the decedent, LOIS JEAN BATES, is and was an individual and resident of the State of California.
  3. At all times herein mentioned, Plaintiff, EDWARD BATES, is and was the surviving spouse of LOIS JEAN BATES.
  4. At all times herein mentioned, Plaintiffs, MATTHEW GISMONDI, DARLEGNE HILLENBRAND, and JONATHAN BATES were and are the surviving adult children of the decedent, LOIS JEAN BATES.
  5. At all times herein mentioned, Plaintiffs, EDWARD BATES, MATTHEW GISMONDI, DARLEGNE HILLENBRAND, and JONATHAN BATES were and are individuals and residents of the State of California, and at all times herein mentioned, were and are the sole surviving heirs of LOIS JEAN BATES, deceased. Plaintiffs, EDWARD BATES, MATTHEW GISMONDI, DARLEGNE HILLENBRAND, and JONATHAN BATES bring this action on behalf of the Estate of LOIS JEAN BATES, deceased, as a survival action, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 377.30 et seq. In addition, as the surviving heirs of the decedent, LOIS JEAN BATES, Plaintiffs, EDWARD BATES, MATTHEW GISMONDI, DARLEGNE HILLENBRAND, and JONATHAN BATES bring this action as a wrongful death action, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60 et seq.
  6. At all times mentioned herein, Defendant, FORD MOTOR COMPANY (hereinafter "FORD") was and is a corporation organized and existing pursuant to the laws of the State of Delaware, with a principal place of business in Dearborn, Michigan, and was at all times herein mentioned authorized and/or qualified to do business, and was and is doing business, in the State of California. Defendant, FORD MOTOR COMPANY is and was a citizen of the States of Michigan and Delaware.
  7. At all times mentioned herein, Defendant, PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC., d/b/a SUPER PUENTE HILLS FORD, is and was a corporation, organized and existing under the laws of the State of California, with its principal place of business in the City of Industry, in the State of California. Defendant, PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC. is and was a citizen of the State of California. Upon information and belief, Defendant, PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC., d/b/a SUPER PUENTE HILLS FORD is the successor corporation to the Defendant, HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC., d/b/a PUENTE HILLS FORD.
  8. At all times mentioned herein, Defendant, HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC., d/b/a PUENTE HILLS FORD, is and was a corporation, organized and existing under the laws of the State of California, with its principal place of business in the City of Industry, in the State of California. Defendant, HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC. is and was a citizen of the State of California. Upon information and belief, Defendant, HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC., d/b/a PUENTE HILLS FORD is the predecessor corporation to the Defendant, PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC., d/b/a SUPER PUENTE HILLS FORD.
  9. At all times mentioned herein, Defendant, TUTTLE CLICK FORD, INC., is and was a corporation, organized and existing under the laws of the State of California, with its principal place of business in the City of Irvine, in the State of California. Defendant, TURTLE CLICK FORD, INC., is and was a citizen of the State of California.
  10. The true names and/or capacities, whether individual, corporate, associate, governmental or otherwise of Defendants DOES 1 through 100, inclusive and each of them are unknown to the Plaintiffs, who therefore sue said defendants by such fictitious names. When the true names and or capacities of said defendants are ascertained, the Plaintiffs will seek leave of this Court to amend the Complaint accordingly.
  11. The Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and based thereupon allege, 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 Plaintiffs 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.
  12. The Plaintiffs are informed and believe and based thereupon allege 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.
  13. The Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and based thereupon allege that at all times mentioned herein each of the defendants, including Defendants DOES 1 through 100, 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.
  14. At all times mentioned herein, Defendants, FORD MOTOR COMPANY; PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC., d/b/a SUPER PUENTE HILLS FORD; HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC., d/b/a PUENTE HILLS FORD; TUTTLE CLICK FORD, INC. and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, were and are engaged in the business of manufacturing, fabricating, designing, assembling, distributing, selling, inspecting, servicing, repairing, marketing, warranting, modifying, aftermarket equipping and modifying, maintaining, leasing, renting, retailing, wholesaling and advertising a certain subject 2003 Ford F250 Super Duty pick up truck (as well as and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides), California License No. 28289DP, and each and every component part thereof, (hereinafter, "SUBJECT VEHICLE") 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.
  15. On or about June 23, 2007, at the hour of approximately 3:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Savings Time, Plaintiff, EDWARD BATES, was driving the SUBJECT VEHICLE, and was pulling a 5th wheel, a certain 2001 Road Runner, California License Plate No. 1JP5506, within the legal speed limit, and the decedent was the right front seat passenger in the SUBJECT VEHICLE. The decedent and the plaintiff were properly belted, when the SUBJECT VEHICLE lost control as a result of the defective and unsafe steering system of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, that exhibited steering wheel oscillation (uncontrollable back and forth motion), immediately following front or rear wheel impacts with small bumps and holes, pavement joints, frost heaves, rough roads, etc., which caused the whole truck to shake severely and uncontrollably such that the Plaintiff had no control over the SUBJECT VEHICLE'S movement over on to the oncoming traffic lanes. In addition, the directional and lateral instability of the SUBJECT VEHICLE was beyond the recovery capabilities of Plaintiff, EDWARD BATES.
  16. As a result of the roll of the vehicle, the roof of the vehicle, which was designed and manufactured with insufficient strength in its "A" and "B" pillars, windshield headers and roof rails, was incapable of withstanding the weight of the vehicle when inverted and was caused thereby to crush inward toward the vehicle's occupants, causing Plaintiff, EDWARD BATES, to suffer severe and permanent personal injuries, and causing severe personal and traumatic mortal head and internal injuries to the decedent, LOIS JEAN BATES, who survived for a measurable period of time, and thereafter died as a result of said injuries.
  17. As a further result of the roll of the vehicle, which compromised it's seatbelt and shoulder restraint systems, LOIS JEAN BATES was partially ejected from the vehicle, and eventually died. The Decedent, LOIS JEAN BATES, survived for a period of time following the initial injuries sustained in such accident, but thereafter died at the scene of the incident prior to the arrival of emergency personnel.
  18. FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

    (Strict Product Liability against Defendants FORD MOTOR COMPANY; PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC., d/b/a SUPER PUENTE HILLS FORD; HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC., d/b/a PUENTE HILLS FORD; TUTTLE CLICK FORD, INC. and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive)

  19. Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate by reference each of paragraphs 1 through 17, above, as though fully set forth herein.
  20. Defendants, and each of them, knew that said 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 decedent herein.
  21. The SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides mentioned was manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, supplied, leased, rented, repaired, serviced, maintained, modified, aftermarket modified, 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.
  22. These SUBJECT DEFECTS included, but were not limited to.
    • Defective and unsafe steering system that exhibits steering wheel oscillation (uncontrollable back and forth motion), immediately following front or rear wheel impacts with holes, bumps, pavement joints, frost heaves, rough roads, etc., which caused the whole truck to shake severely and uncontrollably such that the Plaintiff had no control over the SUBJECT VEHICLE'S uncontrollable movement off of the road and then over on to the oncoming traffic lanes. This defective steering oscillation problem was well known to defendants and had been the subject of numerous complaints to defendants and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since at least 1991.
    • The SUBJECT VEHICLE was designed and manufactured with insufficient directional, 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, including, but not limited to, evasive driving maneuvers at freeway speeds.
    • The SUBJECT VEHICLE did not have Electronic Stability Control ("ESC") installed (termed by FORD as the "AdvanceTrac" electronic stability enhancement system with or without Roll Stability Control), which ESC was not only technologically feasible, but was readily available and offered as an option by FORD in the SUBJECT VEHICLE at relatively little additional cost, which ESC was touted by FORD as addressing the following conditions: "If the system senses oversteer or understeer, it automatically adjusts braking and throttle to match the vehicle's direction to the driver's intention. Translation: It helps you maintain control...." Such ESC system, had it been installed in the SUBJECT VEHICLE, would have dampened and mitigated the dynamic oscillations and oversteer in the directionally and laterally unstable SUBJECT VEHICLE sufficiently so as to have prevented Plaintiff's loss of control and rollover following an evasive maneuver, causing the ensuing rollover accident and Plaintiff's and the decedent's resulting injuries. Such optional ESC "AdvanceTrac" system should have been standard, not optional equipment on the SUBJECT VEHICLE given the enhanced and advanced aforementioned lateral instability and rollover propensities of the SUBJECT VEHICLE known to the defendants and the purchase purpose of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, i.e., for sale to members of the public inexperienced with the aforementioned directional and lateral instability and rollover propensities of the SUBJECT VEHICLE and/or of unknown and/or undisclosed driving experience.
    • The "A" pillars, "B" pillars/windshield headers and roof rails were designed and 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, which rollover propensities where significantly heightened, as defendants and each of them well knew at the time of manufacture, by the relatively low SSF of the SUBJECT VEHICLE.
    • Defective and unsafe restraint systems, including but not limited to restraint system geometry that is ineffective in keeping a properly restrained occupant restrained during reasonable foreseeable accidents. Additionally, seat buckles, seat belts, shoulder belts and retractors, defects including but not limited to false latching, inertial unlatching, inadvertent unlatching, lack of pre-tensioners, and retractor failure, which defendants and each of them knew and were aware would fail to restrain an occupant in the SUBJECT VEHICLE in the event of a roll-over and/or side-slip/skid accident, and which, in this case, failed to restrain the decedent, and which further facilitated the partial ejection of her body during the accident sequence.
    • 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 restraint/retention system, failed to restrain the decedent and parts of her body were thrown through the defective vehicle's window system during this collision, causing severe and fatal injuries to the decedent. Defendants knew and were aware at the time of manufacture of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, that such system 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 allowing the decedent to be partially ejected during the accident sequence, sustaining severe laceration injuries. Despite the availability to defendants of the knowledge and technology to use alternative window system designs with laminated glass or protective glazing, defendants did not include laminated glass or protective glazing in the side and rear windows of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, which laminated glass and/or proper glazing would have prevented the partial ejection of the decedent's body during the roll over and side slip/skid accident and the serious laceration injuries sustained by the decedent during the accident sequence.
    • Defendants and each of them, despite their awareness of the aforementioned dangers and defects in the SUBJECT VEHICLE, failed to give any warnings to Plaintiff, decedent and/or other purchasers and users of the SUBJECT VEHICLE of the aforementioned dangers and defects in the SUBJECT VEHICLE.
  23. Said product and each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides was 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 and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides were used by Plaintiff and the decedent, on or about June 23, 2007, as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner, the SUBJECT VEHICLE, during reasonably foreseeable driving maneuvers, was dangerous and did suffer a loss of directional or lateral control, and did rollover in a roof crushing crash.
  24. As a direct and legal result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, and the defects inherent in the vehicle, severe and permanent injuries were caused thereby to Plaintiff and fatal injuries were caused to the decedent, including physical and mental injuries to the body and mind, all in turn legally resulting in plaintiffs' special and general damages in a sum in excess of the minimum subject matter jurisdiction of this Superior Court according to proof at trial.
  25. As a further direct and legal result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, and the defects inherent in the vehicle, each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides, Plaintiff has suffered and will continue to experience pain and suffering, in a sum in excess of the minimum subject matter jurisdiction of this Superior Court according to proof at trial.
  26. As a direct and legal result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, and the defects inherent in the vehicle, and each of its component parts, and/or after market parts and/or installation guides, Plaintiffs have incurred funeral and burial expenses comprising economic damages in a sum to be established according to proof at trial.
  27. As a further direct and legal result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, Plaintiffs have suffered the loss of their mother's/spouse's consortium, including a loss of love, companionship, comfort, attention, society, solace, moral support, and will further suffer the loss of their mother's/spouse's assistance in the operation and maintenance of their home, and the loss of the decedent's financial support, all to plaintiffs' damages in a sum which shall be determined accord to proof at trial.
  28. ALLEGATIONS SUPPORTING EXEMPLARY DAMAGES PRAYER ONLY AGAINST DEFENDANT FORD MOTOR COMPANY; and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive

  29. Plaintiffs are further informed and believe and thereon allege that Defendants FORD MOTOR COMPANY and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, intentionally engaged in conduct which, with respect to the SUBJECT DEFECTS exposed Plaintiff and the decedent to serious potential danger known to the defendants in order to advance the Defendants' pecuniary interests and thus acted with a conscious disregard for the safety of the Plaintiff and the decedent and other users of the same make and model of the SUBJECT VEHICLE. The facts supporting the Defendants' intentional conduct which exposed Plaintiff and the decedent and other users of the SUBJECT VEHICLE to serious potential danger known to said defendants in order to advance the Defendants' pecuniary interests, are on information and belief, as follows. Defective Steering Oscillation.
  30. Numerous complaints have been made to defendants regarding the un-controllability of these Ford F250 Super Duty trucks with braking at high speeds, when such trucks hit bumps or holes in the road, and when pulling 5th wheels, to the point where the problem is well known and documented by the consumers as the "death wobble." The following complaints were made initially, to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration and forwarded to Defendant, Ford Motor Company, for review.
    • A complaint was made to defendants from a consumer in Elkhorn, Wisconsin on December 3, 2004, in which complaint the consumer complained that his new 2003 Ford F250 truck had a tendency for the steering wheel to oscillate when he stepped on the brakes. When he picked up a 5th wheel in Florida and started back on the road, the oscillation in the steering wheel was much worse and made the vehicle uncontrollable.
    • Another complaint was made to defendants on November 20, 2004, from Bozeman, Montana, in which the consumer complained that the vehicle had "severe handling problems." The consumer reported that when he pulled a trailer with it, the "truck drives like the trailer is trying to steer it and if you pass another vehicle, it is almost uncontrollable. The back end starts to sway from side to side, which in turn causes the trailer to whip back and forth. During panic stop situations, the truck darts left and right and feels like it is out of control." After Ford replaced some of the steering components, it helped for a short while, however, the problems started again. The local Ford dealer advised the consumer that "your truck has handling problems, but there is nothing wrong with your truck." This consumer knew another consumer who had similar problems and Ford bought the truck back after admitting it could not fix the problem.
    • Another complaint was made to defendants on January 1, 2003, involving a consumer from Dover, Pennsylvania. Such consumer reported, "my husband was driving home when his vehicle veered sharply to the left. At this point he could no longer control the vehicle. He then slammed into a large rock in the side of an eight foot bank. The vehicle then flipped onto its side and slid another 20-30 feet. Our vehicle is a 2003 Ford F250 and now has $20,000 worth of damage." In discussing the matter with his local Ford dealer, someone said that "something definitely didn't look right with the steering."
    • Another consumer from Parkville, Missouri reported on April 28, 2007, that "the front end will shake violently when hitting minor rough road at speeds from 60 mph and above."
    • On February 17, 2004, another consumer complained from McHenry, Illinois, who took his 2003 Ford 250 truck to the dealer to have the brakes checked for the pulling to the left on hard braking. He was told that there was a pulling to the left and that a service bulletin had been issued by Ford. After the brake pads, calibers and front leaf springs had been replaced, it still pulled to the left.
    • Additional consumers complained from Depew, New York on August 12, 2005; Tyler, Texas on December 30, 2003, and Pottsville, Pennsylvania on March 23, 1005, each of whom complained about the vehicle pulling and/or turning violently to the left.
  31. In addition, numerous consumer chat groups have been formed on the internet to share information regarding the F250 Super Duty Truck of different model years, including the 2003 model year, including the inability of Ford dealers to fix and/or repair the problem.
  32. Defective Restraint System

  33. In addition, at all times relevant since before January 1, 2001, defendants were aware that the restraint system retractors in their vehicles were defectively designed and manufactured so as to be ineffective in restraining its properly-restrained occupants, which occupants during a foreseeable rollover accident could be and would likely be ejected for failure of the retractor to lock properly to prevent such ejection, all of which could have been prevented by pre-tensioners and other relatively inexpensive devices including, but not limited to, inexpensive alternative designs of the retractor system equipped aboard such vehicle all of which were amply available to the defendants at the same or marginally increased cost which modified and alternative designs and devices could and would prevent the spool-out of the retractor system aboard such vehicle in the event of a roll-over accident and the availability and effectiveness of which were at all times well known to the defendants who nonetheless, failed and refused to adopt or implement such safety devices and further failed to warn the public of the dangers of its retractors, despite having been placed on notice since prior to January 1, 2001 from prior accidents, resulting injuries, and numerous dealer warranty claims, including but not limited to OASIS and MORS 3 as well as reports from the NHTSA hotline concerning said incidents, of said problems and defects, which defendants refused to correct the problem and as to which defendants further failed and refused to issue any public warnings of the dangers of said vehicle despite ample knowledge and opportunity to do so, and as a result prevented both the public at large and owners and occupants of such vehicles from learning of said defects and defendants further actively concealed said defects and failed to warn the public and purchasers of the vehicle, including Plaintiffs, all to advance Defendants' pecuniary interests in the form of avoiding loss of retail car sales, avoiding the costs of warranty repairs, avoiding adverse publicity associated with such defects, as well as avoiding the dissemination of information which could and would have increased public safety at the expense of increasing the numbers of warranty claims and lawsuits against defendants as a result of larger public knowledge of said defects; had defendant adopted and/or implemented such alternative designs and modifications and/or issued timely and effective warnings, such could have and would have prevented the serious and permanent injuries sustained by the Plaintiffs as a result of the subject accident.
  34. Insufficient Lateral and Roll Stability

  35. Plaintiffs further allege that at the time of purchase of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, defendants, and each of them, knew that the SUBJECT VEHICLE failed to comply with Ford's internal resistence to rollover standards and placed the SUBJECT VEHICLE into the stream of commerce despite this knowledge. Ford's resistence to rollover standards requires, among other things, that the SUBJECT VEHICLE not attain simultaneous two wheel lift during a J-Turn maneuver at various speeds with various steering inputs which is performed on a computer model knows as ADAMS. Defendants, and each of them, knew that the SUBJECT VEHICLE failed to pass this test and did in fact attain simultaneous two wheel lift, i.e., the vehicle rolled over. Defendants knew and were fully aware that FORD had decided to exempt the SUBJECT VEHICLE from its resistence to rollover standards, as it could not pass them, and merely required the SUBJECT VEHICLE to pass a simplistic "handling" test known as Corporate Engineering Test Procedure P6-101, which procedure has nothing to do with testing a vehicle's rollover resistence, propensity to rollover, or the limits of a vehicle with regard to lateral forces necessary to cause the vehicle to roll over. At all times relevant herein, defendants, and each of them, with full knowledge of the vehicles known lateral instability and its inability to pass Ford's resistence to rollover standards, nevertheless placed the SUBJECT VEHICLE into the stream of commerce without taking any remedial action to improve the SUBJECT VEHICLE's stability such as ESC, or dual rear wheels, which defendants had readily available but chose not to install, and did not warn the users of such vehicles, all in the advancement of Defendants' pecuniary interests.
  36. Defective Window System Design

  37. Defendants also ignored and suppressed data regarding the deaths and serious injuries due to partial and total ejection of occupants through the side and rear windows of vehicles during rear end, rollover and side impact accidents due to the use of defective window system design in those windows.
  38. 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 alternative glazing (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 ejection resistant glazing.
  39. 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 alternative glazing could eliminate most ejections through glass openings. Defendants and each of them received and/or participated in, these NHTSA 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 rear impact and/or side skid/side impact 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.
  40. 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.
  41. 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, estimating the reduction in fatalities and incapacitating injuries, such as the plaintiff 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.
  42. In August 1999, NHTSA published another report entitled, Ejection Mitigation Using Advanced Glazing: Status Report II, which estimates that alternative window system designs with 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 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.
  43. 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.
  44. Despite the longstanding recommendations of knowledgeable and caring automotive engineers, and in spite of the known roll over propensity of Defendants' 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 occupant ejection and partial ejections, 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 the Plaintiffs herein. 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.
  45. 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 TRUCK, 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 seriously and permanently injured the Plaintiff, and mortally injured the decedent, during the course of the accident which is the subject of this lawsuit.
  46. Plaintiffs further allege that the conduct of the defendants was undertaken with the result that the SUBJECT TRUCK'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 TRUCK.
  47. As a legal result of the aforementioned dangerous and defective condition of said vehicle, and failures and refusals by the Defendants to warn as alleged herein, the decedent was killed and the Plaintiff, EDWARD BATES was injured and all Plaintiffs suffered damage and have suffered a loss of their mother's and /or spouse's consortium, as herein alleged.
  48. Defendants were at all times aware that the aforementioned defects alone, and in combination with one another, could, would, and did pose a risk of serious injury and death to motorists when using said vehicles in the manner intended with ordinary care, and that said risk of injury and/or death would be and was further heightened and exacerbated by the failures and refusals of the defendants to warn such vehicles' users of said known defects which further prevented said users of such vehicles from seeking prompt and effective repairs, all of which was motivated by Defendants' pecuniary interests as set forth herein, and which conduct was, at all times herein mentioned, undertaken as a unified corporate design, manufacturing and product safety non-warning policy formulated by the defendants and their management and which conduct was and is despicable in that defendants consciously decided to design, manufacture, distribute, rent, lease, promote, select, purchase, service, repair and place the SUBJECT VEHICLE on the market fully knowing of the defects in the vehicle which could kill and seriously injure people while using that vehicle in the manner intended with due care, while consciously deciding not to and in fact refusing to provide adequate occupant protection or warnings to the public properly warning of the aforementioned risks and dangers of which defendants were at all times here mentioned fully aware, while such public was using the SUBJECT VEHICLE with due care; all of which misconduct for pecuniary advantage and gain on the part of such defendants, and each of them, was and is malicious, despicable, vile, contemptible, and was further a direct and legal cause of the death of the decedent and the serious and permanent injuries to the Plaintiff, warranting an award of exemplary damages in favor of the Plaintiffs and against defendants and each of them to punish said defendants and to deter such conduct in the future, pursuant to Civil Code § 3294(c)(1) and the rule enunciated in the decisions in Romo v. Ford Motor Company (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 738; Nolin v. National Convenience Stores, Inc. (1979) 95 Cal.App.3d 279; Seimon v. Southern Pac. Trans. Co. (1977) 67 Cal.App.3d 600; Ford Motor Co. v. Home Ins. Co. (1981) 116 Cal.App.3d 374, 381-382; and Donnelly v. Southern Pac. Trans. Co. (1941) 18 Cal.2d 863, 869-870.
  49. SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

    (Negligence [Product Liability] against Defendants, FORD MOTOR COMPANY; PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC., d/b/a SUPER PUENTE HILLS FORD; HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC., d/b/a PUENTE HILLS FORD; TUTTLE CLICK FORD, INC. and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive)

  50. Plaintiffs refer to and incorporate herein each and every allegation of Paragraphs 1 through 44, above.
  51. At all times herein mentioned, defendants and each of them, were under a duty to use care in the design, manufacture, production, research, testing, distribution, advertising, construction, marketing, wholesaling, retailing, leasing, renting, servicing, maintaining, and selling of the SUBJECT VEHICLE to ensure that the vehicle was safe for its intended uses.
  52. At all times herein mentioned, defendants and each of them, failed to use due care in that the SUBJECT VEHICLE was negligently, carelessly, recklessly, willfully, wantonly, and tortiously designed, manufactured, produced, researched, tested, distributed, advertised, constructed, marketed, wholesaled, retailed, rented, leased, serviced, maintained and sold such that SUBJECT VEHICLE was dangerous and unsafe for its intended uses when used with due care in the manner intended.
  53. As a direct and legal result of the negligent acts and omissions of the defendants, and each of them as herein set forth, Plaintiffs have suffered the injuries and damages as alleged herein.
  54. THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION

    (Negligent Maintenance and Repair as Against Defendants, PUENTE HILLS MOTORS, INC., d/b/a SUPER PUENTE HILLS FORD; HITCHCOCK AUTOMOTIVE RESOURCES, INC., d/b/a PUENTE HILLS FORD; TUTTLE CLICK FORD, INC. and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive)

  55. Plaintiffs refer to and incorporate herein each and every allegation of Paragraphs 1 through 48 inclusive, above as though fully set forth herein.
  56. At all times herein mentioned, defendants, and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, were under a duty to use due care in their service, repair, inspection and maintenance of the SUBJECT VEHICLE.
  57. Prior to the automobile crash which is the subject matter of this lawsuit, defendants so negligently, carelessly, willfully, wantonly, recklessly, and tortiously serviced, repaired, inspected and maintained the SUBJECT VEHICLE so as to have caused and/or contributed to the accident and the plaintiffs' resulting injuries.
  58. Had defendants exercised due care in their service, repair, inspection and maintenance of the vehicle, and adequately inspected the subject vehicle, they would have known and should have known that the steering system of the SUBJECT VEHICLE was defective, unsafe, and would fail, causing the loss of control over the SUBJECT VEHICLE, causing and/or contributing to the crash which is the subject matter of this lawsuit, as a direct and legal result of which Plaintiffs and the decedent in turn suffered the severe personal, physical and fatal injuries, and legally resulting in plaintiffs' damages therefrom as alleged herein.
  59. FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION

    NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS (Against All Defendants by Plaintiff, EDWARD BATES, ONLY)

  60. Plaintiffs incorporate by reference as though fully set forth herein, paragraphs 1 through 52 inclusive.
  61. Plaintiff, EDWARD BATES, suffered serious emotional distress as a result of perceiving the serious injuries and danger to his wife, the other occupant of the vehicle, including but not limited to the partial ejection and death of the decedent, LOIS JEAN BATES.
  62. As described above, defendants negligently caused the serious injuries to Plaintiff and mortal injuries to 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, maintain, inspect, service and repair the SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts and/or aftermarket parts and/or installation guides.
  63. At all times mentioned, defendants and each of them 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, serviced, maintained, 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.
  64. 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, serviced, maintained, 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 decedent to be partially and / or totally ejected from the vehicle, suffering serious personal, fatal and laceration injuries.
  65. The Plaintiff, as the driver of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, was present in the vehicle while it was rolling and was aware, sensorily and contemporaneously, that his wife, had been partially ejected during the roll, lacerated by the broken glass and was subjected to catastrophic and ultimately fatal injuries in Plaintiff's presence. As a direct and legal result of the Defendants' negligence, carelessness, and unlawful conduct and the defects inherent in the vehicle, the Plaintiff 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 under the circumstances.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray for judgment against defendants and each of them, as follows:

  1. For special and economic damages including, medical expenses, and damages for funeral and burial expenses, according to proof at trial;
  2. For general damages including damages for loss of consortium and emotional distress;
  3. For prejudgment interest, as determined by and accrued according to applicable statutes;
  4. For costs of suit incurred herein; and
  5. For any other and further relief the Court deems just and proper.
  6. Exemplary and punitive damages, by all plaintiffs, only as successors in interest to the Estate of LOIS JEAN BATES, against Defendant, FORD MOTOR COMPANY, and DOES 1 - 100, inclusive, ONLY.

DATED: January 18, 2010 Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys

By:__________________________________
BRIAN D. CHASE, ESQ.
MIKE PEÑA, ESQ.
Attorneys for Plaintiffs

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

Plaintiffs hereby demand a trial by jury.

DATED: January 18, 2010 Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys

By:__________________________________
BRIAN D. CHASE, ESQ.
MIKE PEÑA, ESQ.
Attorneys for Plaintiffs


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