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Judge Rules Volvo Truck’s Parking Brake System Not Defective After Three-Day Trial
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - On January 27, 2003, following a three-day court trial, United States District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson ruled that a Volvo semi-tractor’s parking brake system was not defective. The case arose from a fire that occurred when a U.S. Xpress, Inc. truck driver drove the Volvo truck 16 miles with the parking brake on, causing enough heat to ignite the fire, which destroyed the shipment. The claim against Volvo was filed by the cargo insurer, Great Northern Insurance Company.
The shipment of nearly $400,000 of communications equipment was en route from Minneapolis to Tempe, AZ. During the trip, the two truck drivers, James Gardner and Wendy Stanfield, drove to a rest stop near Salisaw, OK to rest and switch drivers. Stanfield parked the truck and engaged only the tractor’s parking brakes. After resting, Gardner awoke and drove away from the rest stop, neglecting to disengage the parking brakes.
All parties agreed that driving the truck with the parking brakes engaged caused the fire. However, Great Northern argued the truck should have been equipped with two additional parking brakes to prevent the truck’s engine from overriding the brake system. Great Northern also claimed the truck’s parking brake indicator light had burned out and should have been equipped with a longer life bulb, and that the truck should have had an audible alarm to alert the driver the park brakes were on when the truck was moving.
In a Memorandum Decision dated January 8, 2003, the court found that the two-park brake system was not unreasonably dangerous, that Volvo’s choice of a bulb for its park brake indicator was reasonable and a consumer should replace the bulb if it burns out, and the park brake system gave the driver several indications the park brakes were applied.
U.S. Express, Inc. v. Great Northern Insurance Company v. Volvo Trucks North America, Inc.
Judge Paul A. Magnuson
United States District Court of Minnesota
Case No. CIV 01-195, 2002 WL 31433274
Attorneys for the defense: Michelle Gilboe, Bowman and Brooke LLP in Minneapolis, MN. Attorneys for Great Northern: David Maloof of Maloof & Brown LLP of Rye, NY and Brent Primus of Minneapolis, MN.
Experts in the case were Nathan Ware of Ware Associates in Grand Haven, MI for Great Northern and Leonard Buckman of Buckman Consulting Inc. in Brighton, MI for Volvo Trucks.