Fox & Farley, Attorneys at Law

Volvo Faces Trial in Nashville Over Defective Wiring in Truck

Defective products cause thousands of injuries to consumers every year. Product liability is an especially serious concern when dealing with motor vehicles, as even small defects can lead to car accidents. While manufacturers attempt to correct defects through the government-supervised recall system, that is often not sufficient to prevent potentially deadly accidents.

Recall Not Enough to Keep Volvo Out of Court

In December 2007, Volvo issued a recall for approximately 125,000 trucks sold in North America. According to recall documents Volvo filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “On certain heavy duty trucks, the circuit protection (i.e., automatic circuit breakers) used to protect the vehicle lighting system may not provide adequate protection.” Thus, if there was a short circuit, “components and wiring may be subject to overheating which could possibly result in a vehicle fire.” Accordingly, Volvo began replacing the defective circuit breakers with fuses beginning in February 2008. As required by law, Volvo also sent vehicle owners notice of the “defect.”

Unfortunately, recalls do not reach every affected vehicle. And in some cases, an uncorrected defect can lead to problems years down the line. For example, in March 2012, one of the trucks identified in the 2007 recall caught fire. The truck owner’s insurance company paid for the damages and subsequently sued Volvo under Tennessee product liability law to recover its losses. Volvo moved for summary judgment, claiming there was no evidence any specific product defect caused the fire.

On October 13, U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell of Nashville denied Volvo’s motion and ordered the case to trial. Under Tennessee law, a plaintiff must present evidence a product was either in “dangerous condition” or “unreasonably dangerous” when it left the manufacturer or seller. When alleging defects in product design, a plaintiff must also present sufficient “expert testimony.”

Here, the insurance company presented such an expert, who testified in a deposition the insured truck had “multiple shorts occurring in the wiring in the fuse panel and the breaker panel area.” These shorts caused the breakers to fail, which in turn caused the fire. The expert added the correction proposed in the original NHTSA recall—replacing the breakers with fuses—would not have completely fixed the problem.

Combined with the terms of the recall notice, which specifically said there was a “defect” in the truck model’s design, Judge Campbell said the expert’s testimony was sufficient to survive Volvo’s motion for summary judgment. This is not to say a jury will ultimately accept the expert’s testimony or rule for the insurance company, only that the insurance company has raised “genuine issues of material fact.”

Have You Been Injured by a Defective Product?

Product liability cases are often lengthy, complex affairs, due not only to the need for expert testimony but also the intricacies of Tennessee law on the subject. That is why, if you have been injured to a defective automobile or other product, it is important you seek out an experienced Tennessee personal injury lawyer. Contact the offices of Fox & Farley, Attorneys at Law, in Knoxville or Clinton today if you need to speak with someone right away.

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