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Gordon v. Nissan

Sep 22, 2006


California Jury Finds Nissan Pathfinder Not Defective 

GARDENA, CA - On Friday, September 22nd, 2006, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury found that Nissan's 1990 Pathfinder was not defective in design, rejecting claims that Nissan was responsible for the injuries sustained by plaintiff in a 2003 single vehicle rollover crash.  The jury in Scott Gordon v. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. deliberated two days before rendering its verdict for Nissan. 

On June 14, 2003, Scott Gordon was driving a 1990 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 en route to San Diego with a friend.  As he drove up an onramp to I-15 near Las Vegas, Gordon left the vehicle drift onto the left gravel shoulder.  Attempting to regain the pavement, Gordon jerked the steering wheel to the right, causing the Pathfinder to spin out of control.  He then steered hard left, putting the Pathfinder into a sideways slide.  The vehicle rolled, passenger side leading.  The vehicle's right side wheel rims left "rim gouges"  prior to rolling over on the road.  Scott Gordon was rendered a paraplegic at the T-12 level in the crash.  He had just finished his second year of law school at University of Colorado.

Plaintiff contended that the 1990 Pathfinder was susceptible to on-road rollover due to its narrow track width compared to center of gravity height ("static stability factor").  Plaintiff's accident reconstruction  expert Robert Caldwell claimed that this was an untripped rollover at low speeds involving only one roll, and that the rim gouging was a consequence, not a cause, of the rollover.  Plaintiff's expert Dr. Mehdi Ahmadian testified that the static stability factor of the Pathfinder was below his minimally acceptable value of 1.15.  Plaintiff's testing expert Micky Gilbert testified that he could prevent rollover in extreme turning maneuvers by widening the track width of the Pathfinder by 6 inches. 

Although Gordon was not wearing his seatbelt, plaintiff's expert Dr. Mariusz Ziejewski testified that plaintiff rendered a paraplegic due to the roof squeezing plaintiff into the seat, and thus he contended a seat belt would not have prevented the injury in this crash.

Defense expert Robert Rucoba reconstructed the crash for Nissan, and concluded that the vehicle rolled over twice, proving a trip mechanism.  Defense expert Lee Carr presented his handling and stability testing of the Pathfinder, and explained why the vehicle was well designed and had an appropriate margin of safety.  Nissan called Yoshiro Tateishi from Nissan's Technical Center in Japan to explain the design and development of the 1990 Pathfinder.  Defense expert Dr. Dennis Schneider established that had plaintiff  been wearing his seat belt, his paralyzing thoracic spine fracture would have been prevented.  Real world crash statistics developed by defense expert Dr. Rose Ray demonstrated that the Pathfinder had a better safety record than the allegedly "safer" vehicles pointed out by Gilbert, and that seat belts significantly reduced the risk of this kind of injury in rollovers.  Defense expert Mike James showed that Dr. Ziejewski's computer simulations about the injury mechanism were flawed and inaccurate. 

Plaintiff's economist, Dr. Anthony Gamboa, argued that Gordon had been bound for a stellar legal career and as a result of the crash was due $3.5 million in future lost earnings and $2.2 million for future medical care.  Nissan's damages experts disputed these claims.

Gordon v. Nissan.
Case No. YC048335
Judge Lois A. Smaltz
Los Angeles County Superior Court

Attorneys for Defense:
Mark V. Berry of Bowman and Brooke's Los Angeles office

Attorneys for Plaintiff:
Larry E. Coben, Coben & Associates, Scottsdale, AZ and Michael S. Fields, Artesia, CA

Experts appearing at trial for Defense:
Robert Rucoba, accident reconstruction, Houston, TX; Lee Carr, vehicle dynamics, Houston, TX; Dr. Dennis Schneider, biomechanics, Los Osos, CA; Michael James, computer simulations, Orem, UT; Dr. Rose Ray, statistics, Menlo Park, CA; Dr. Herbert W. Moskowitz, behavioral toxicology, Encino, CA; Thomas Hedge, physiatrist, Northridge, CA; Dr. Gerald Udinsky, economist, Berkeley, CA

Experts appearing at trail for Plaintiff:
Robert Caldwell, accident reconstruction, Lafayette, CO; Dr. Mehdi Ahmadian, vehicle dynamics, Blacksburg, VA; Dr. Mariusz Ziejewski, biomechanics, Bismarck, ND; Micky Gilbert, PE, vehicle testing, Denver, CO; Dr. John Melvin, Physiatrist, Philadelphia, PA; Anthony Gamboa, economist, Miami, FL; Gerry Aster, life care planning, South Pasadena, CA

Trial Team

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