Arizona Jury Decides IMMI Not Liable For Injuries Sustained by Fire Truck Captain

March 18, 2014

Indiana Mills and Manufacturing, Inc. (IMMI), represented by Indianapolis attorney Randall Riggs of Frost Brown Todd LLC and Jeffrey Warren and Corey Richter of Bowman and Brooke in Phoenix, received a defense verdict following a three-week trial in Maricopa County, Arizona. The jury decided on February 28 that a seat belt buckle manufactured by IMMI was not defective in its design or the cause of injuries to the plaintiff.  Expert testimony for the defense informed the jury that the plaintiff’s defect theory was factually unsupportable, and that the cause of her ejection from a fire truck was the failure to properly complete the process of donning her seat belt. 

This accident occurred when the fire Captain’s truck was responding Code 3 lights and siren to a house fire and was T-boned at a major intersection over I-10.  The bullet vehicle struck the fire truck at over 45 miles per hour, causing the Captain’s door to open and resulting in her ejection.  She sustained significant brain injuries, but made a remarkable recovery and returned to duty with the fire department.

The Captain testified that she had no memories of the crash, but that she always wore a seat belt while in the truck. She argued that the design of the 2001 IMMI seatbelt buckle was defective and unreasonably dangerous, and with her lawyers asked the jury for a multi-million dollar verdict.  The opinion of the plaintiff's expert was that she had partially inserted her latch plate into the buckle at the time of the crash, and that she had failed to discover the condition because the buckle had become contaminated in its eight years of use.  This contamination allegedly created friction forces within the buckle that created a “false latch” condition. 

IMMI presented testimony from its Director of Engineering and from restraint expert Eddie Cooper proving that the 2001 seat belt buckle was a safe, state-of-the-art design, that complied with all federal safety standards.  IMMI also presented evidence that established that the buckle was not unusually prone to contamination or false latching and that it had an excellent track record in the field.   Plaintiff was represented by Daniel Dell'Osso of the Brandi Law Firm in San Francisco, CA and Raymond Norris of Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A., Phoenix, AZ.