$700,000: Vehicle With Two Children Crashes When Brakes Go Out

CASE DESCRIPTION: A father was fixing up truck for his son to use. While rebuilding the older model truck the father had the power brakes rebuilt by ABS Power Brake, since the part was not available. After installing the rebuilt brakes and testing them, the father took his son and daughter out for a test run. During a down hill portion of the test run the brakes went out. The truck crashed and rolled over on the side of the road. The Plaintiffs brought suit for products liability and damages.

RESULT: $700,000.00 total settlement amount

In May of 1998, Plaintiff Ralph G. restored a 1960”s International Harvester pick-up truck to a running condition, for his 16 year old son, Plaintiff Salvatore G. Ralph determined that it was necessary to replace the power brake vacuum booster unit, and attempted to purchase a new one. Because a new power brake vacuum booster unit was no longer available, the device was rebuilt by Defendant ABS Power Brake. Ralph G. then placed the part onto the vehicle, tested the brakes and made sure they were properly functioning. At this point Salvatore G. and his sister, 11 year old Laticia G., got into the vehicle to take it for a test run.

After driving around the block a few times Salvatore stopped at a stop sign and made a right turn to go down Hillrose Street in the Tujunga Canyon area. As Salvatore approached the base of the hill (on Hillrose Street), he attempted to stop. There was a popping type noise and the brake pedal simply went to the floor. The vehicle was suddenly without brakes, as it approached the base of the hill where there was a stop sign and intersection. The pick-up truck crossed through the intersection and went up onto the curb on the other side of Tujunga Canyon Blvd., then struck a tree, fire hydrant, sign post and then rolled over onto it’s left (driver’s) side.

Plaintiff contended the part was improperly rebuilt in that Defendant negligently closed the cylindrical “can,” which caused it to be susceptible to opening up when it was placed back on the vehicle and into service.

With regards to damages Plaintiff Salvatore G. injured his lower leg and has continuously suffered from marked swelling of the right lower extremity after any prolonged standing, walking or activity. Additionally, he has continuously complained of soreness and difficulty with lifting his left arm and overhead work with the left arm. Plaintiff claimed loss of future earnings capacity because he is now disabled, preventing him from future mechanical/heavy labor. While the injury suffered by Plaintiff Laticia G’s could have resulted in a condromylacia condition of her knees potentially requiring future arthroscopic surgery.

TYPE OF CASE: Products Liability; Auto Accident

INJURIES: Plaintiff Salvatore G. suffered a cerebral concussion, severely displaced fracture of the left mid humerus, circumferential right lower leg “crush” injury, collapsed lung, and an abrasion over the entire right abdomen. Salvatore had surgery for open reduction and internal fixation of the fractured humerus. It is noted that Salvatore was also diagnosed with a radial nerve injury secondary to the humerus fracture. Salvatore subsequently developed a right calf hematoma and was hospitalized again for 12 days. Salvatore was hospitalized again for a total of 4 times and had six additional surgeries to treat the hematoma and subsequent infections which had developed.

Plaintiff Laticia G. was taken to the emergency room with an abrasion over her left knee, and subsequently experienced soreness to her knee after performing demanding physical activity such as playing soccer.

Plaintiff Ralph G. had a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress by virtue of the fact that he witnessed the accident and came onto the scene immediately after the incident, and found his young son, Salvatore, pinned under the vehicle.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: In 5/98 on Hillrose Street in the Tujunga Canyon area.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE: Salvatore G. – 16 at time of incident
Laticia G. – 11 a time of incident

OCCUPATION: Salvatore G. – Student
Laticia G. – Student

For Plaintiffs – Salvatore G., Laticia & Ralph G.

Daniel T. Carreon
For Defendant – ABS Power Brake

DEFENDANT INSURANCE CO.: Golden Eagle Insurance Company