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Case Summaries

Defective Design: Truck Driver Trapped from Collision Accident and Burns to Death

Jim Wells County, Texas: On December 26, 2006, while driving a 2003 Freightliner tractor-trailer, Gary Pilat encountered a stalled pickup truck towing a gooseneck trailer obstructing the roadway, and attempted to avoid colliding with it and other occupied vehicles. He managed to avoid striking numerous vehicles, but collided with the gooseneck trailer, impacting the left side, 80-gallon fuel tank. The force of the collision catapulted Gary’s tractor over the gooseneck trailer into the grassy median, trapping Mr. Pilat and almost instantaneously, fire began to engulf the front of Gary’s tractor. Within a few moments of the collision, the tractor’s gas tank exploded causing the cab to become further engulfed in flames.

Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP filed a suit contending that the 2003 Freightliner ST2 tractor-trailer did not include the necessary fuel tank structural and crashworthiness elements and escapability mechanisms to prevent a fuel fed fire and subsequently Mr. Pilat’s death. This case settled for a confidential sum.