Alaniz v. Ford Motor Company
1. Representative Jury Verdicts
$225 Million Awarded Against Ford Motor Company
On July 26, 2001, a Ford F-150 Four-Door Super Cab pick-up rolled three times in a single vehicle accident occurring outside of Benavides, Texas. 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 other two occupants in the vehicle walked away from the accident uninjured as their doors stayed closed during the rollover. Alaniz, 34, and Benavidez, 20, were both thrown out of the vehicle and sustained their fatal injuries upon contact with the ground.
The surviving family members brought a product liability suit against Ford Motor Company. On behalf of the family members, Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP filed a suit contending 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, allowing for a 56 inch span from the windshield to the back window. With the B pillar removed, the vehicle provided little occupant protection in a rollover accident. The truck was also defectively designed by Ford Motor Company when it used latches that have some plastic components, which tend to break instead of bending, as would an all-metal latch, in a rollover accident.
In its verdict, the jury found the pick-up truck defective in design and that such defect caused the deaths of Paul Alaniz and Laura Benavides.
Laura Benavides’ estate was awarded $5 million and her surviving mother was awarded $110 million.
David Rumley and Jeff Wigington’s plaintiff, Jerry Alaniz, mother to deceased Paul Alaniz, was awarded $101 million. $9 million was awarded to the estate of Paul Alaniz.
Review the completed Charge of the Court and resulting Jury Verdict here:
$124.5 Million Awarded in a Vehicle Seatback Failure Case
A Bexar County, Texas, jury awarded $124.5 million to the family of an 11-year-old boy who received critical head injuries when the driver’s seat of his father’s Audi A4 collapsed in a rear-end collision. The verdict was returned March 2, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.
The jury found Audi AG and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., responsible for the accident, and awarded a total of $124,496.993.97 to the family of Jessie Rivera, Jr., who sustained catastrophic bodily injuries including severe brain damage, partial paralysis, and blindness. Evidence presented during trial demonstrated the 11-year-old boy was injured when the car in which he was a passenger was struck from behind, and the seatback of the driver, the boy’s father, unexpectedly collapsed, and falling backward, forced the father’s body to strike his son in the head.
“This type of automobile defect has been known about for more than 20 years,” said Jeff Wigington, a senior partner with the Wigington Rumley firm. “When ’60 Minutes’ aired its report, the safety standards then in effect were essentially the same as they are today. Clearly this case – and many others across the country – shows the need for tougher, upgraded safety standards. All consumers, but especially parents, should be pressing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as Congress, to strengthen these standards and protect drivers and passengers. We all can understand how a serious injury can result from a major accident. But none of us anticipates a serious injury from this type of accident. This is a tragedy that should never have happened.”
Review the Final Judgment and Jury Verdict here:
$132.5 Million Award in Bus Crash Verdict
In El Paso County, trial concluded with the jury awarding $132.5 million to the families of two migrant workers killed in a 2005 bus crash. The Los Paisanos Bus Company was found negligent in the maintenance of the commercial vehicle (including allowing it to be driven with bald tires) and the jury determined this neglect contributed to a fatal bus crash where two migrant workers from Mexico died.
Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP successfully represented the victim of this deadly 2005 bus crash, taking the case to trial before the jury, who reached a verdict of $132,500,000.00 million in the resulting wrongful death action. To learn more, review the complete Jury Charge with Judgment provided by WigingtonRumleyDunnBlairLLP on Scribd:
$173 Million Jury Verdict in Hot Tap Pipeline Explosion (On Appeal)
Jessie Gonzalez was killed by an explosion of a natural gas pipeline, which occurred when Southcross ordered a “hot tap” of an active gas line in order to avoid the lost profits of shutting down the line. When it became evident that Southcross had ordered and implemented the hot cap in violation of federal regulations and industry standards, WRDB filed suit against Southcross.
Hot tapping is a technique by which a person cuts into a gas pipeline while gas is still flowing through it. It enables natural gas companies to perform maintenance or repairs on a pipeline without turning it off, thereby avoiding the substantial monetary costs of a shutdown. Because hot tapping involves cutting into contained flammable or combustible materials, the industry considers the operations to be exceptionally dangerous. If special precautions are not taken during hot tap operations, a substantial risk exists of an explosion. Given these inherent risks, it is no surprise that hot taps are heavily regulated.
Southcross Energy Partners G.P., L.L.C. (“Southcross”) is a natural gas company that owns and operates pipelines in Texas. During trial, the company’s highest safety officer is William Boyer admitted that Southcross failed to follow applicable regulations with respect to the hot tap operation that resulted in the death of Jessie Gonzalez. Mr. Boyer testified that he was responsible for ensuring that Southcross complied with its duty to operate its pipelines safely. He further agreed that, when an injury occurs, a company should endeavor to figure out the root cause of the incident and never downplay it as “just an accident.” However, Mr. Rumley’s cross-examination of Boyer revealed a much different story. During trial, Mr. Rumley forced Boyer to admit that in private, he has a much different perspective. Evidence revealed that during a private conference on maintaining a company’s image, Boyer told oil executives that “significant incident[s]” are inevitable and “it is just a matter of time before you will have [one].” When such an “incident” does occur, he advised, operators should “[e]mphasize that it was an accident and unfortunate.” It is important, he continued, to “convey genuine interest in repairing the damage and finding the cause of the incident.” In private, Boyer said nothing about actually repairing the damage, finding the root cause, or avoiding catastrophes in the first place. It was this testimony that justified punitive damages against the company.
The jury found that Southcross’s failure to ensure that the hot tap was performed by a qualified crew was negligent and caused the injuries and death of Jessie Gonzalez. The jury verdict totaled: $173,720,000 with $153,720.00 in actual damages: $10,770,000.00 to Elizondo and $142,950,000.00 to the Gonzalez family. It also assessed $20,000,000.00 against Southcross in punitive damages, with $5,000,000.00 awarded to Elizondo and $15,000,000.00 to the Gonzalez family. The case is currently on appeal.
Following the verdict, lead trial lawyer, David Rumley stated: “We are pleased with the jury’s verdict. Southcross ignored not only applicable federal regulations with respect to hot tap operations but ignored its own policies and procedures in an effort to save money by refusing to de-energize the gas pipeline before conducting operations. This case is a clear example of the inherent problem with an oil and gas industry that places money over safety. Southcross was more interested in continuing the flow of money through its gas pipeline than stop the flow and perform the operations safely. Furthermore, the jury got a window inside of what really happens in meetings of oil and gas executives where they say one thing in public but than in private they care only about money.”
2. Representative Settlements
The following table provides a representative list of settlements reached on behalf of our clients. This is not a complete listing. It is updated periodically. This table is provided for illustrative purposes only.
The net recovery to the client(s) is listed, thus the actual case settlement is larger.
|Case Description||Net Client(s)' Recovery|
|Roof Crush Defect||$900,000.00|
|Door Latch Defect||$825,000.00|
|Door Latch Defect||$2,127,832.00|
|Restraint System Defect||$559,878.00|
|Roof Crush Defect||$900,000.00|
|Negligent Tire Maintenance||$2,511,607.00|
|18 Wheeler Accident||$2,187,192.00|
|Fuel System Defect||$1,156,759.00|
|Door Latch Defect||$1,521,207.00|
|Door Latch Defect||$509,266.00|
|Roof Crush Defect||$600,000.00|
|Roof Crush Defect||$795,117.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,405,586.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,218,195.00|
|Restraint System Defect||$1,151,223.00|
|Restraint System Defect||$2,709,022.00|
|Commercial Tire Defect||$582,708.00|
|18 Wheeler Accident||$1,050,997.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,568,193.00|
|Fork Lift Defect||$956,256.00|
|Restraint System Defect||$915,937.00|
|Automotive Seat Defect||$478,407.00|
|18 Wheeler Accident||$799,587.00|
|Fuel System Defect||$1,818,699.00|
|Door Latch Defect||$1,301,115.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,880,986.00|
|Work Site General Negligence||$665,379.00|
|Seat Belt Defect||$483,621.00|
|Roof Crush Defect||$603,267.00|
|Industrial Equipment Defect||$522,669.00|
|Industrial Equipment Defect||$1,658,991.00|
|Industrial Equipment Defect||$862,944.00|
|Commercial Vehicle Negligence||$2,144,471.00|
|Industrial Equipment Defect||$860,475.00|
|Commercial Vehicle Negligence||$1,416,890.00|
|Commercial Vehicle Negligence||$939,458.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$6,559,014.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$690,824.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$787,366.00|
|18 Wheeler Accident||$2,479,322.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$2,631,964.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$558,305.00|
|Commercial Vehicle Negligence||$6,924,096.00|
|Automotive Seat Defect||$11,588,818.00|
|18 Wheeler Accident||$762,504.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$11,075,812.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,078,729.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$669,282.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$2,822,449.96|
|Commercial Vehicle Negligence||$423,647.79|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,777,101.20|
|18 Wheeler Accident||$571,332.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$7,067,662.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$7,963,224.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,157,364.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,141,727.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,386,371.75|
|Commercial Vehicle Collision||$622,535.04|
|Oil Field Negligence||$3,231,490.14|
|Commercial Vehicle Accident||$587,692.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$615,274.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$566,448.00|
|Work Place Accident||$577,725.00|
|Oil Field Negligence||$7,569,819.00|
|Commercial Vehicle Negligence||$3,241,912.00|
|Work Place Accident||$472,681.31|
|18 Wheeler Accident||$2,673,898.56|
|Oil Field Negligence||$1,011,930.00|
|Tire Defect Commercial Vehicle||$2,394,651.00|
|18 Wheeler Accident||$1,000,000.00|
|Highway Construction Defect||$4,969,236.00|