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60 Minutes Interview: Jeff Wigington and Ford 15 Passenger Van Rollovers

CBS News: $124M Verdict against Audi with Interview of Jeff Wigington

A jury awarded a $124M verdict to Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP clients, the Rivera family, after an Audi seat collapsed on seven-year-old Jesse Rivera, Jr., who was sitting immediately behind the seat when the car was rear-ended.

CBS News visited the Riveras after the verdict, covering not only the defective front seat but evidence that it would have cost Audi less than two dollars to fix the defect which cause the young boy’s permanent brain injuries.

Watch the video:

Hear Jeff Wigington explain how the failure to update a 50 year old federal safety regulation contributed to this catastrophic accident in an interview with CBS News affiliate KENS-TV here.

Uber Ride-Sharing Injury Litigation

Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP is a pioneer in the pursuit of justice for those who have been injured as passengers in the new niche of ride sharing offered by companies like Uber and Lyft. In February 2018, extensive media coverage resulted after Jeff Wigington filed a lawsuit against Uber for damages based upon the sexual assault of an Uber passenger, read some of these news stories here:

New York Times: Single Mother Tossed 20 Yards Down the Road in Ford Truck Door Failure Rollover Crash, Wigington Interview

The New York Times writes about an accident where there was a tire blowout on Deborah Seliner’s Ford pickup, causing the truck to rollover and eject her. The force of the rollover impact tossed her 20 yards down the roadway. In its aftermath, the issue narrowed to faulty door latches, particularly springs with the wrong specifications that caused Ms. Seliner’s door to fly open.

As attorney for Ms. Seliner, as well as other victims, the New York Times interviewed Jeff Wigington, of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP.

“The initial indication is that it’s a bad spring,”said Wigington. “There’s nothing else to explain why doors are opening.”

Ford responded to the New York Times, saying their latches are safe and fully comply with safety standards; however the article also points to records on recommendations and recalls that controvert the assertion.

New York Times: Insurers Bowing Out of 15-Passenger Van Coverage, Wigington Interview

In 2002, the Colorado School Districts Self-Insurance Pool and Guide One, a leading insurer of churches and their vehicles, both stopped issuing new coverage for the increasingly dangerous 15-passenger vans, manufactured by Ford and DaimlerChrysler. Two other church insurers have issued safety advisories against these vehicles.

According to The New York Times, it is unusual for insurance companies to eliminate an entire category of coverage; however safety issues cannot be ignored. The high center of gravity in these vans gives it a high propensity to rollover, particularly when the number of occupants in the vehicle increases.

Jeff Wigington of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP, who has represented plaintiffs in dozens of cases involving the vans, was quoted in the piece as explaining they ought to be recalled, nevertheless federal officials of the National Traffic Safety Agency claim to be powerless to recall the vehicles, citing no specific mechanical defect. They issued an advisory warning to the public; however critics believe the response is as weak in response as it was to the Ford Explorer problem.

“With the Ford Explorer,”Jeff Wigington said, “it wasn’t until many people died and there was public outcry that the manufacturer took steps to redesign the vehicle.”The agency’s warning, said Wigington, is “merely a Band-Aid on a bleeding wound.”

USA Today: 15-Passenger Vans Head in the Right Direction, Wigington Interview

In USA Today coverage, General Motors (GM) reported that they will make their stability and traction control system a standard feature on their 15 passenger van models, helping to prevent rollover accidents. Stability control detects when a vehicle is not heading in the direction a driver intends and uses brakes to bring it under control. It can help on slippery or gravel surfaces and during emergency maneuvers.

USA Today interviewed Jeff Wigington, founding partner of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP for his take on things: Wigington explained, “It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s not an absolute fix to the problem.”

LawyersandSettlements: $132.5M Verdict in Fatal Bus Crash

A jury awarded $132.5 Million to the families of two migrant workers killed in a 2005 bus crash where Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair represented the plaintiffs with detailed coverage and attorney interviews in an article published by lawyersandsettlements.com.

Detroit News: $225M Verdict against Ford Motor Company

The Detroit News covered the combined $225,000,000 jury verdict against Ford Motor Company over a deadly rollover accident involving a Ford F-150 four-door super cab.

“The verdict is believed to be the first time that a jury linked roof deformation to occupant ejection in a rollover accident.”

During the rollover accident, the driver side doors opened, causing Paul Alaniz, the driver, and Laura Benavidez, who was seated directly behind the driver, to be ejected from the truck. The surviving family members brought a product liability suit against Ford Motor Company, alleging that the F-150 four-door super cab was defectively designed in that the vertical support structure, or B pillar, had been removed in the design of this vehicle.

It was clearly a survivable accident if the doors had stayed closed,” said Jeff Wigington, attorney for the Alaniz family.

Los Angeles Times: Ford and Chrysler Passenger Van Rollovers, Wigington Interview

The Los Angeles Times reports 15 passenger vans made by Ford and Daimler Chrysler are widely used for church groups and college sports teams, including the Prairie View A&M track team whose Ford van flipped over, killing four college students and injuring six others. Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair represented victims of this tragic rollover crash.

Ford blamed the fatal college track team accident on unsafe driving, and denied any defective wrongdoing on its part.

The Department of Health and Human Services, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have all administered their own safety warnings to local programs and the public about the dangers of these vans, including their stability issues. The high center of gravity increases with each occupant in the vehicle, giving it a high risk of rollover in the event of tire failure or emergency precautions.

Ford, however, had exempted the 15 passenger vans from the corporate rollover resistance guidelines.

Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP’s Jeff Wigington told the reporter he was surprised to learn of this exemption. Wigington explained the van exemption as being “unreasonable and irresponsible” when “Ford knows [they] will be used to transport college students, church groups…and other consumers in large numbers.”

Indianapolis Star: 15 Passenger Van Rollover Sparks Safety Concerns, Wigington Interview

A 15-passenger van rollover involving two Amish families killed five members and injured 11. A tire on the van later revealed a hole that resulted in a blowout, a common occurrence with the 15-passenger vans

The Indianapolis Star reported that 74 percent of all 15-passenger vans have at least one tire that is not properly inflated, with rollovers subsequently ensuing. Jeff Wigington, of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP, was contacted for his take on the issue.

“The problem with these vans is that they have a high center of gravity, a narrow track width and a short wheelbase, which makes them much more likely to tip over in an accident,” he said. “It all only gets worse with the more people you put in the van.”

“These vans are an accident waiting to happen,” said Wigington. “I wouldn’t let my child ride in one. They’re too dangerous.”

Dallas Morning News: Safety of 15-Passenger Vans in Question, Wigington Interview

The Dallas Morning News quoted Jeff Wigington of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP in an article questioning the safety of 15-Passenger vans.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that the 15-passenger van becomes three times more likely to roll over if there are 10 or more occupants, owing to a high center of gravity, which tends to shift upward and rearward with increased occupants. Stability issues have been addressed and rebuffed by these manufacturers over the years, and largely kept out of public view with litigation protective orders.

Jeff Wigington, however, thinks otherwise. “I believe they have not redesigned the vehicle because public awareness has not been raised,” says Wigington.

Amarillo Globe News: Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP Sues Fire Truck Manufacturers

The Amarillo Globe News reported that a fire truck accident killed an Amarillo firefighter when its rear passenger door opened en route to a call and the firefighter was thrown out. Although the fire fighter did not have his seat belt on, records reveal that the door had a habit of opening while the truck was operating.

Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP alleged negligence on the parts of the fire truck manufactures and DaimlerChrysler, saying they designed the vehicle with a defective and dangerous door latch system, according to Amarillo Globe News.

Amarillo Globe called on Jeff Wigington, a partner with the firm who represents the parents of the deceased firefighter, for more information.

“(The parents) have always been interested in finding the truth, and the truth is the door should not have opened in this accident,” Wigington said. “If the door had stayed closed, their son would have been fine.”

The Province: 15 Passenger Vans Causing Turmoil in Canada, Wigington Interview

After three accidents in Canada involving 15-passenger vans caused multiple deaths, officials noted the safety warnings issued in America about the controversial vehicles, according to The Province.

Two universities in Canada followed America’s lead and recommended the vans not be used for transporting their passengers. The Workers Compensation Board issued two warning to the same effect, and a third was issued by the British Columbia Coroner’s Service, however only one of those recommendations was followed, relating to insurance coverage.

The Province called on Jeff Wigington, an attorney with Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP, due to his knowledge on the safety issues of the 15-passenger vans. The reporter explained that Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP partner Jeff Wigington had represented families of victims of over 20 15-passenger van cases across the United States.

“They’re really terrible vehicles—they’re ridiculously unsafe,” said Wigington. “The people of Canada deserve to know.”

The State: Another 15 Passenger Van Tire Blowout Kills, Wigington Interview

The left rear tire blew out on a 15-passenger van, causing the driver to lose control and flip several times, killing a passenger. Left rear tire blowouts, unfortunately, are common occurrences with the 15-passenger vans. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued three separate consumer advisories for 15-passenger vans and their safety issues, and a 2005 study found that 74 percent of the vehicles have “significantly misinflated tires.”

In its coverage of the fatal blowout, The State publication quoted Jeff Wigington, an attorney with Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP, on the issues with the 15-passenger vans.

“It’s probably the most dangerous vehicle on the roadway,”said Wigington. “Consistently, these vans tip over at around 40 miles an hour on clean, dry pavement. Very few people know that, unfortunately, and that’s why people keep driving them.”

Clarion-Ledger: Common Tire Blowout on a 15 Passenger Van Turns Fatal, Wigington Interview

According to The Clarion-Ledger, a fatal 15-passenger van accident ensued when its left rear tire’s tread separated, causing the van to lose control and subsequently rollover. The 15-passenger van rollover caused the death of a schoolteacher, and injured six others.

Reporting that these 15-passenger vans have long been under speculation due to their high propensity for rollovers, and federal rules now prohibit new sales of said vans to school and church groups, citing safety issues. Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP partner Jeff Wigington was contacted for his expertise on the subject of these van rollovers.

“The left rear tire is something that commonly fails in 15-passenger van accidents, partially because of the unequal weight distribution because of the weight on that tire,”said Wigington. “A momentary loss of control can be fatal.”

The Monitor: 15 Passenger Rollover Fatality Spurs Seat Belt Debate, Wigington Interview

A 15-passenger van rollover killed seven occupants, and authorities say at least four of the rollover victims were not wearing seat belts. The Monitor quoted Jeff Wigington of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP, as the firm has represented families of the van’s victims in over 20 cases around the nation.

“The basic problem with the van is that they have a high center of gravity, narrow track width and a short wheel base, which makes them prone to rollovers,” said Wigington. “They are more likely to roll over in any situation.”

BloombergLaw: Will SCOTUS Decide Jurisdiction for the Victims of Car Defect Accidents? Wigington Interview

Ford Motor Company (“Ford”), having lost arguments before the state supreme courts of Minnesota and Montana, has petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to review its arguments on where Ford can be sued for injuries caused by its product defects. Specifically, Ford argues that accident victims seeking injury damages from Ford should not be able to bring their lawsuits in their home states when their claims are based upon alleged defects in their used Ford motor vehicles which were originally sold by Ford in other states.

In an interview with Bloomberg reporter Martina Barash, Jeff Wigington of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair described the ramifications of these two cases upon people injured not only by Ford motor vehicles, but other makes and models of cars, trucks, and SUVs, as well as other types of products.

In the article entitled, “Where to Sue a Car Company for Defects? SCOTUS Might Weigh In,” written by Martina Barash and published by BloombergLawon January 9, 2020, Jeff Wigington explained:

  • For suits against Ford and some other automakers, “the biggest hurdle will be the restrictive product liability laws in Michigan,” where those companies are headquartered and where the suits might have to be filed….
  • The Michigan Legislature has enacted laws favorable to large corporations “because of the lobbying that the automobile manufacturers have done in their home state.”
  • The laws make it more likely that a case won’t get to a jury.
  • “Some remedies may not even exist in Michigan. They may not be able to pursue the case.”
  • When plaintiffs’ cases are dismissed, “they have to find new counsel willing to take their case within the statute of limitations,” and they incur filing expenses and travel expenses. The costs of litigating in another state will accumulate.

TEXAS POLICE OFFICER WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT

David Rumley of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP represents Michelle McCollum, widow of Corpus Christi Police Officer Alan McCollum, in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against defendants Brandon Portillo; Christopher Litke; Walter Thompson; and Wonders Bar and Grill, where over $10,000,000 in personal injury and wrongful death damages are sought based upon allegations that Portillo was driving drunk when his vehicle struck and killed Officer McCollum during a traffic stop of Litke’s vehicle on January 31, 2020.

Officer Alan McCollum served with the Corpus Christi Police Department for seven years, including being a member of both the CCPD’s Honor Guard as well as its SWAT Team. He was awarded the CCPD Life-Saving Award for his contributions in rescuing a man from a burning car crash on New Year’s Day 2019.

Alan Daniel McCollum was also a decorated war hero. Officer McCollum was a 21-year veteran of the United States Army and the recipient of the Bronze Star, among other many other decorations, medals, and honors awarded during his service to our country.

The City of Corpus Christi still mourns the loss of Officer Alan McCollum. In the aftermath of his passing, the Harbor Bridge was lit in blue. Statewide, Governor Abbott ordered both the Texas and U.S. flags lowered to half-staff for seven days in tribute. Thousands attended his funeral, coming from across Texas and around the country to give their respects.

WRDB considers it an honor and a privilege to advocate on behalf the Estate of Alan McCollum and his widow, Michelle, in seeking justice on his behalf.

The wrongful death suit is based on allegations that Portillo was driving while intoxicated when his Chevrolet Silverado struck and killed Officer McCollum during a traffic stop on State Highway 358 in Nueces County. Officer McCollum was hit by Portillo’s truck as he was walking toward Christopher Litke’s vehicle. Litke was driving a Ford F250 owned by Walter Thompson at speeds exceeding 100 mph before being pulled over.

Earlier that evening, Brando Portillo was drinking at Wonders Bar and Grill where he consumed 18 alcoholic beverages before getting behind the wheel of his pickup. The bartender who served him 16 of the 18 drinks has been arrested. Allegations include that even after Portillo showed signs of being intoxicated not only to servers but also bartenders and managers of Wonders Bar and Grill, service was never denied him.

Explains WRDB’s Rumley: "Portillo was served 18 drinks. One bartender served him 16 of the 18. How do you explain serving someone 18 drinks? We intend to hold everyone who played a role in Officer McCollum’s death accountable for their actions.”

For more details, read the Plaintiff’s Original Petition.

Media coverage of this Wrongful Death Lawsuit includes:

Oklahoma Rig Fire Litigation

David Rumley of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP represents the families of two workers who tragically died in a January 2018 Quinton, Oklahoma rig fire, Josh Ray and Cody Risk. (Click their names to review the petitions filed on behalf of these victims and their families.) From Mr. Rumley: "It's error after error after error. Lighter drilling mud was used not only because it was cheaper but because investors could be told the well was more productive, with a bigger flare at the site. The horrific deaths of these men could have been avoided if the mud engineers had simply done what they were supposed to do."

There has been extensive media coverage of the litigation surrounding this terrible oil rig fire, with news coverage that includes:

In January 2020, media trial coverage included:

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In June 2020, the verdict was discussed in detail in an article published in Trial Magazine's Verdicts & Settlements section entitled "Jury Awards Damages to Families of Oklahoma Oil Rig Fire Victims," shared with permission below:

Trial Magazine June 2020 Verdicts&Settlements Oklahoma Oil Rig Fire (pdf)

FAIR WARNING: DANGEROUS SEATBACK FAILURES, WIGINGTON INTERVIEW

Fair Warning is a nationally respected nonprofit news organization focusing upon public health, consumer, workplace and environmental issues. The Center for Auto Safety is a non-profit consumer advocacy group dedicated to vehicle safety and quality.

On September 2, 2020, Fair Warning published an article by Eli Wolfe entitled “Safety Advocates Assail Lack of Federal Action on Weak Vehicle Seats.” It was shared later that day by the Center for Auto Safety on its website and picked up by Salon Magazine on September 9, 2020.

The lack of standardized seat strength requirements for automakers to include in seats placed in motor vehicles manufactured and/or sold in the United States continues to be a danger for both drivers and passengers, as reported by Fair Warning. Seats are likely to fail in the impact of a crash, with the collision’s force collapsing the seatback and endangering the lives of both its occupant and others in the vehicle.

Fair Warning’s attempts to get a response from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as several car manufacturers were stonewalled. However, the extent of this problem and the risk facing Americans today was addressed by respected safety advocates, including Jeff Wigington of Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP (quoting from the article):

“Each individual manufacturer has their own internal seatback standard,” said Jeff Wigington, a Texas-based attorney who has handled numerous seatback lawsuits, including a high-profile case against Audi. “The problem is that unless you have a lawsuit against them for a seatback that collapsed, you’re not going to be privy to that information … You could have a situation where the manufacturer’s standard is 10 percent better than the federal regulation, or 50 percent better, or twice as good—you just don’t know.”