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Toyota Wins Verdict in Rollover Crashworthiness Case
RENO, NV - On Monday, February 4, 2008, a Washoe County District Court jury agreed that the 2001 Toyota Sienna was not defective. In doing so, the jury rejected Plaintiffs' unspecified request for general and wrongful death damages and over $17 million in special damages.
The case arose out of a July 5, 2002 accident on Interstate 80 westbound. The Shrivastavs, including Atull Shrivastav's parents who were visiting from India, were returning to Elk Grove, California from a family vacation. About 26 miles west of Lovelock, Nevada, Shinjan Shrivastav lost control of the family's 2001 Toyota Sienna van and the vehicle left the road and rolled several times across desert terrain. As a result of the accident, Atull Shrivastav was rendered quadriplegic, Kaleshwar Prasad Srivastava sustained cervical spine fractures and head injuries, and Sita Rani Srivastava died.
Plaintiffs sued Toyota on theories of negligence and strict liability alleging that the Sienna was defective because it did not come standard with vehicle stability control ("VSC"), and that the vehicle's roof structure and restraints were not crashworthy. Following the Court's decision on a number of pretrial motions, Plaintiffs dropped their VSC and negligence claims and proceeded with their strict liability crashworthiness claim. Plaintiffs' reconstructionist downplayed the accident severity and testified that the subject rollover was a fairly gentle event when compared to other collision types. Plaintiffs' other liability experts contended that the Sienna was defective because while the restraint system was sufficient to keep occupants off the roof in a rollover, the roof of the vehicle was insufficiently strong and defective because it intruded into the occupant space, causing the Plaintiffs' injuries.
The defense successfully countered that the injuries suffered in the crash were not the result of roof crush, but rather were the result of the severity of the crash. Additionally, Toyota's engineer, Motoki Shibata, testified regarding the extensive testing Toyota performed on the Sienna during development and how that testing demonstrated that the Sienna provided reasonable occupant protection in rollovers and other crash modes.
Case Name: Atull Kumar Shrivastav, et al. v. Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
Judge: Steven R. Kosach
Case No.: CV04 01517
Venue: The Second Judicial Court of the State of Nevada for the County of Washoe
Attorneys for the Defense: Vincent Galvin, Jr., Bard D. Borkon, and Doug L. Pfeifer of Bowman and Brooke LLP, San Jose and Minneapolis offices; Greg W. Marsh, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Attorneys for Plaintiff: John Echeverria, Echeverria Law Office, Reno, Nevada, and Daniel Dell'Osso, Law Offices of Thomas J. Brandi, San Francisco, California.
Experts Appearing at trial for Defense: accident reconstruction - Dr. Gregory Smith, Collision Safety Engineering, Inc., Orem, UT; biomechanics - Edward Moffat, Ph.D., Biomech, Inc., Orinda, CA.
Experts Appearing at trial for Plaintiffs: accident reconstruction - Anne Stodola, Ponderosa Associates, Lafayette, CO; restraints - Alan Cantor, ARCCA, Inc., Penns Park, PA; biomechanics - Carley Ward, Ph.D, Biodynamics Engineering, Inc., Pacific Palisades, CA; roof design and performance - George Rechnitzer, DVExpert International Pty Ltd., Victoria, Australia; roof design and testing - Stephen M. Forrest, SAFE, Goleta, CA; rehabilitation - Carol Hyland, Lafayette, CA; life care planner - Alex Barchuk, M.D., Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital, Kentfield, CA; economist - Stan V. Smith, Smith Economics Group, Ltd., Chicago. IL.