Auto Product Defect Results

Mr. Merman has litigated auto product defects cases his entire career.  The Barralaga v. Cooper case is one example of an auto product defect case, which you can read about here.   Auto-products cases are among the most complex personal injury cases for several reasons.  First, the injuries are usually catastrophic – when a tire, airbag or seatbelt fails, the result is usually death or severe permanent injury.  Auto products cases are also difficult because of the science involved that is specific to the type of defect -  for example, to litigate a tire case, the lawyer needs to understand how a tire is built and the chemistry and physics that work to hold the tire together and pull the tire apart. 

Mr. Merman has handled cases involving: defective airbags, defective seat belts, defective A and B-pillar design (roof-crush cases), defective tires, faulty mufflers, and defective ignition switches.  In addition to single accident cases, which are the specialty of the Merman Law Firm, our founder has been asked on several occasions to lead national litigation involving defective auto products.

In Re General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation, Cause No. 14 MD 2543 in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, Honorable Jesse Furman presiding.

In 2013, Mr. Merman was asked to handled more than a thousand potential cases against General Motors related to defective ignition switches installed in more than 12,000,000 GM vehicles.  Those vehicles were recalled because of a defective ignition switch which would cause vehicles to lose power and control because the defective ignition switch turned from “on” to “off” during normal and foreseeable operation. When the ignition switch failed, drivers were often unable to use their steering and brakes in an effective manner. The resulting loss of control, or “moving stall,” and subsequent accidents are exacerbated by the fact that the defective ignition switch also prevents life-saving airbags from deploying. So, in addition to causing accidents, the defective part made the resulting damages even greater.

An internal investigation, the Valukas Report, revealed that GM had notice and opportunity to correct the problem, but did not.

While GM heard over and over from various quarters – including customers, dealers, the press and their own employees – that the car’s ignition switch led to moving stalls, group after group and committee after committee within GM that reviewed the issue failed to take action or acted too slowly. Although everyone had the responsibility to fix the problem, nobody took responsibility. It was an example of what one top executive described as the “GM nod,” when everyone nods in agreement to a proposed plan of action, but then leave the room and does nothing.

Mr. Merman litigated these cases on behalf of hundreds of people who claimed that they were involved in accidents caused by defective ignition switches.  You can read a complaint filed by Mr. Merman hereView Arlita Green Complaint.

Barralaga v. Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. Cause No. 2015-03070 in the 295th District Court of Harris County, Texas.

Result: Confidential Settlement for Plaintiff October 2016

On April 25, 2014, Mr. Barralaga was a belted passenger in a 2008 Ford Ranger eastbound on IH-10.  He and the driver were returning from a roofing job in West Texas.

The truck was equipped with a Cooper Discoverer H/T P235/70R15 tire in the right rear position. The subject tire bore DOT 3DM1C505205 and was manufactured by Cooper Tire at its Albany, Georgia plant during the last week of 2005.  At around 1:50 p.m., near milepost 336, the tread and/or steel belts separated from the body of the subject tire.

The tire failure caused the truck to veer causing Mr. Castro to lose control.  The truck swerved to the left, skidded into the dividing section of the highway, rolled over several times, and finally came to rest upright, facing west on the shoulder of the westbound lane.

In the subject rollover, Mr. Barralaga sustained serious and permanent injuries, including skull and vertebral fractures and significant traumatic brain injuries. Prior to the incident, Mr. Barralaga was a healthy, able-bodied man.   Mr. Barralaga’s sister, Cristina, cared for him after the accident.  Life was extremely difficult for the family, as you can see in this video produced by Keith Maitlin.

The Merman Law Firm filed suit against Cooper Tire and Rubber Company, alleging that the tire failed because of manufacturing and design defects.  You can see the 2nd Amended Petition here.

Cooper’s lawyer, who are among the best Defence lawyers in the country, strenuously contested liability and resisted much of the discovery sought by The Merman Law Firm.  The Merman Law Firm fought back at every turn.  Mr. Merman found former plant workers who provided crucial testimony in the case.

The goal at every stage of the case was to recover enough money for Mr. Barralaga to receive the medical treatment he needs and to allow him to live in comfort for the remainder of his life.  Plaintiff’s experts opined that Mr. Barralaga’s necessary medical treatment alone would cost more than $12,000,000, so the stakes were extremely high1.   

After twenty-seven depositions, more than two dozen motions a dozen hearings, thousands of hours of lawyer time, two mediations, and more than fifty thousand miles of travel, The Merman Law Firm negotiated a confidential settlement that was approved by both the client and the Court.  Access some selected Motions and Orders here.

For most lawyers, the case would be over once the settlement is agreed and funded – but not for the Merman Law Firm.  Mr. Barralaga and his family had never dealt with the kind of money they were about to receive, so Mr. Merman continued to serve the Plaintiffs after the settlement.  First, he placed the majority of the settlement money in a spendthrift trust to protect it and ensure that Mr. Barralaga’s treatment and needs could be met for the remainder of his life. View Order Establishing Trust. 

Then, because Mr. Merman has helped hundreds of seriously injured people and has contacts in the medical supply industry as a result, he helped the family purchase the equipment they would need to care for Mr. Barralaga.

Mr. Merman also helped the family find and buy a new house in the country where Mr. Barralaga and his family could live comfortably.

The family was overjoyed with the service provided by the Merman Law Firm, as you can see here – this testimonial is in Spanish, as the clients did not speak English…Mr. Merman is fluent in Spanish, so this was not an impediment. You can see excerpts from this video in English on our product liability testimonials page

The Merman Law Firm is extremely proud of the job it did for the Barralaga family.  As with most of its clients, by the end of the case, the Barralagas felt like family.  And that is exactly how we treated them.  Exceptional Personal Service for Personal Injury Victims.