Herbert v. Takata Corporation
3/23/2017 – Daily Journal
On March 16, 2017, Yukevich I Cavanaugh secured a full defense (take nothing) verdict for seatbelt manufacturer Takata Corporation and TK Holdings Inc. ("Takata"). Terry Herbert v. Ford Motor Company and Takata Corporation, et al., San Bernardino Superior Court, Judge Donald L. Alvarez.
After a hard-fought, 10-week trial, a San Bernardino jury found that the seatbelt was not responsible for the 58-year old plaintiffs injuries, despite her claims that the "Takata AB" restraint was defective in design.
The case of Terry Herbert v. Ford Motor Company and Takata Corp, et al. arose out of a 2012, single vehicle rollover accident that occurred on State Route 62 in San Bernardino, Ca. Plaintiff was seated in the rear left passenger seat of a 2007 Ford Fusion with three other occupants on their way back from a church event in Fort Mohave, AZ. The driver lost control of the vehicle, swerved off of the road and rolled three times before coming to rest in the desert.
Plaintiff was ejected from the vehicle and thrown more than 30 feet, resulting in traumatic brain injury and paraplegia.
Through her attorneys, Scott Wilson, Conor Kelly, and Henry Pan of Robinson Calcagnie in Newport Beach, Ms. Herbert claimed that she was belted during the accident, but because of a design defect, the belt unlatched after inadvertent elbow contact with the pushbutton release. In their closing argument, they asked the jury for an award of over $25 million.
Takata defense counsel James Yukevich, successfully argued to the jury that (1) plaintiff was not wearing her seatbelt, and (2), the seatbelt was not defective. Mr. Yukevich called into question the credibility of the three eye-witness occupants; each of whom testified that plaintiff wore her seatbelt during the accident. During Mr. Yukevich's cross-examination of the driver's expert witness Dr. Kenneth Solomon, the jury heard Dr. Solomon's concession that plaintiff did not have the type of entanglement injuries consistent with the scientific literature on the subject. Dr. Solomon used the same literature to form his opinions in the case.
"Cases like this are never easy for juries where the plaintiff has sustained severe injuries. Still, all of the testimonial and physical evidence in the case showed that Ms. Herbert was not wearing the seatbelt, and that the seatbelt was safe and not defective. We believe the jury came to the right decision. The verdict was fair and just."
Takata has sold millions of the Takata AB buckle, and after 22 years, it is still currently in use in the U.S. and abroad."