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NISSAN WINS SUV ROLLOVER LAWSUIT
Plaintiffs abandon case on eve of trial
CHICAGO, IL - On Tuesday, May 27, 2003, plaintiffs Robert and Rachelle Loncarevic voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit against Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and Nissan North America, Inc., based on the Loncarevics’ claim their 1997 Nissan Pathfinder was unreasonably dangerous and defective due to a high center of gravity and propensity to rollover. Plaintiffs abandoned these claims against Nissan on the eve of trial in the face of several motions Nissan’s attorneys filed challenging the opinions of plaintiffs’ primary expert witness, William Medcalf.
Plaintiffs’ expert William Medcalf based his opinion that the Pathfinder was inherently prone to rollover on his "dynamic stability factor" analysis. Nissan argued that Medcalf’s "dynamic stability factor" analysis was junk science because it has never been peer reviewed and has not been validated through vehicle handling and stability testing. Medcalf also admitted that he is the only person who uses the "dynamic stability factor" analysis, which he developed solely for use in his litigation consulting business.
The case resulted from a single vehicle rollover crash that occurred in the evening hours of March 12, 1999, in Chicago, Illinois. 27-year-old plaintiff Robert Loncarevic was driving his 1997 Nissan Pathfinder 4X4 on the ramp from northbound I-294 to eastbound I-90 near O’Hare Airport when he removed his seatbelt in order to reach his cell phone in the back seat. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Loncarevic lost control on an icy patch of the ramp and rolled the Pathfinder at least twice. After the accident, Mr. Loncarevic told rescue workers he was traveling 70 mph on the ramp, which is marked with a 35 mph speed limit. Mr. Loncarevic was thrown from his driver’s seat to the passenger side of the vehicle and broke his back, which resulted in paraplegia.
Plaintiffs’ expert Medcalf also claimed that the Pathfinder’s rollover propensity defect manifested itself in Mr. Loncarevic’s crash because the vehicle tripped and rolled 270 degrees while it was still on the paved roadway. Nissan further argued that the vehicle did not begin to roll until after it had gone into the snow-covered grass median. Two officers who investigated the crash testified that the Pathfinder’s tires left furrows in the snow and dirt and that there was no evidence of a rollover until after the furrow marks ended in the median. Moreover, Medcalf’s only physical evidence of the alleged on-road rollover was scratch marks on the Pathfinder’s right front wheel hubcap, which he observed during a vehicle inspection in January, 2003. Nissan planned to confront Medcalf with post-accident photographs of the vehicle’s right front wheel taken prior to Medcalf’s inspection, which did not show some of the scratches Medcalf was relying upon.
Nissan filed Daubert motions challenging Mr. Medcalf’s opinions. Nissan’s motions were pending before the Court when the Loncarevics dismissed their lawsuit, with prejudice. Plaintiffs’ dismissal came after Nissan offered to waive any right to recover approximately $25,000 in taxable costs if plaintiffs abandoned their case, an offer that expired at 5 p.m. on the day of the parties’ final pretrial conference on May 27. The Court entered judgment in Nissan’s favor on May 28, 2003.
Robert Loncarevic and Rachelle Loncarevic vs. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and Nissan North America, Inc.
United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois
Judge David H. Coar
Court File No. 01 C4246
Plaintiffs were represented by Thomas G. Siracusa, Esq. of Power, Rogers & Smith, P.C., Chicago, Illinois.
Nissan was represented by David W. Graves, Jr., Esq. and Bard D. Borkon, Esq. of Bowman and Brooke LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Brian W. Bell, Esq., of Swanson, Martin & Bell, Chicago, Illinois.
Experts for the Plaintiffs: William Medcalf, P.E., Gary Yarkony, M.D.
Experts for Defendants: John Habberstad, Ph.D., Spokane, WA; Thomas McNish, M.D., San Antonio, TX; and Donald Tandy, Houston, TX.