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Ingvaldson v. Mitsubishi

May 18, 2004


Mitsubishi Trial Result Summary

MILWAUKEE, WI - On May 18, 2004, after a trial lasting just over two weeks, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Mitsubishi in the first products liability "rollover" case to be tried involving Mitsubishi's popular "Montero" SUV.

On March 5, 1999, 47-year-old Minneapolis attorney Eric W. Ingvaldson was driving his son to Madison, Wisconsin for a college visit in his 1995 Mitsubishi Montero, when, at about 2:00 a.m., along a straight stretch of east-bound Interstate 90/94, he left the road at about 60 mph and drove into the median, rotating counter-clockwise, and rolled, passenger side leading, about 140 feet, ending upside-down in the west-bound lane on the opposite side of the highway. Both the driver and the front seat passenger were wearing their seat belts. But the driver's side of the roof of the Montero sustained multiple heavy impacts in the violent 3 1/2-roll accident. The driver died at the scene from massive skull fracture; the passenger also sustained head impact injuries, but was able to walk away from the accident and fully recovered.

In a products liability "wrongful death" lawsuit against Mitsubishi, plaintiff Molly Ingvaldson, wife of the deceased driver, alleged that the roof "collapsed into the occupant's space, causing severe injuries to (the driver)." Plaintiff claimed the driver sustained his fatal injury from impact to his head from the interior roof rail--the part of the roof just above the driver side door. The lawsuit alleged that the Montero roof lacked sufficient strength and lacked sufficient interior padding and that Mitsubishi was negligent in its design and testing of the Montero. Plaintiff also argued, in support of the claim that roofs should be stronger, that SUVs like the Montero have a problem with frequency of "rollovers" compared to passenger cars.

Mitsubishi countered with evidence that the Montero is the product of extensive safety testing and design evolution and is a well-designed, safe vehicle. Test documents showed that the strength of the Montero roof exceeds the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards by a large margin--so much so that the front corner of its roof (which plaintiff argued "collapsed") can support five tons of force with only minor deformation. Moreover, Mitsubishi's injury analysis indicated that the driver did not sustain his head injury from contact with the interior roof, but rather from ground contact when his head extended out a side window because of high-speed vehicle rotation during the rollover crash.

Plaintiff's counsel asked the jury for a multi-million dollar damage award. Defense counsel argued that the driver's tragic death in this accident was caused by the violence of the rollover collision, which was not the fault of Mitsubishi, and not by the design or crash performance of the Montero or its roof.

After approximately four hours of deliberation, the 12-person jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the Mitsubishi defendants . . . with specific findings that Mitsubishi was not negligent in the design or testing of the Montero and that the roof of the Montero is not defective.

Molly Ingvaldson v. Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc. and Metro Mitsubishi
State of Wisconsin, Circuit Court, Milwaukee County
Case No.:02-CV-000670

Appearing as expert witnesses on behalf of plaintiff were Donald Friedman of Goleta, California, on the subjects roof padding and roof design, strength and performance in rollovers, and Anthony Sances of Santa Barbara, California on the subject of injury causation. Expert witnesses for the Mitsubishi defendants were Garry Bahling, Metamora, Michigan (roof design, strength and performance in rollovers), Geoffrey J. Germane, Ph.D., Provo, Utah (accident reconstruction), and James H. Raddin, Jr. M.D., San Antonio, Texas (injury causation).

The Mitsubishi defendants were represented by David R. Kelly and Kevin P. Curry, Bowman and Brooke LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Plaintiff was represented by James J. Murphy and Thadd J. Llaurado, Murphy, Gillick, Wicht & Prachthauser, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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