November 12, 2019, PLLR News
Failure to design, manufacture semi-trailer with side underride guards
The parents and estate of a teen who died after his car became trapped under a semi-trailer and was dragged along a highway sued the semi-trailer’s designer and manufacturer, alleging liability for failure to design and manufacture the rig with side underride guards. The jury awarded $42 million. Hein v. Utility Trailer Mfg. Co.
Riley Hein, 16, was driving his Honda Civic on an interstate highway when the driver of a 53-foot semi-trailer designed and manufactured by Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. switched into his lane. Hein’s vehicle became trapped under the trailer and was dragged along the highway for approximately 1,500 feet, scraping along a concrete wall. Hein’s vehicle caught fire, and he suffered fatal injuries. Hein is survived by his parents and sibling.
Hein’s parents and estate sued Utility Trailer Manufacturing, alleging the defendant failed to design and manufacture the semi-trailer with side underride guards.
The jury awarded $42 million, apportioning liability at 45% to the defendant and 55% to the nonparty driver of the semi-trailer and his employer.
Citation: Hein v. Utility Trailer Mfg. Co., No. D-101-CV-2016-01541 (N.M. Dist. Ct. Santa Fe Cnty. Aug. 23, 2019).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Randi McGinn and Mike Sievers, both of Albuquerque.
Plaintiff experts: Brian McDonald, economics, Albuquerque; Perry Ponder, engineering, Tallahassee, Fla.; and William Bortles, accident reconstruction, Greenwood, Colo.
Defense experts: David Kemp, engineering, Woodstock, Ga.; Dale Fridley, mechanical engineering, Phoenix; Jeff Colwell, mechanical engineering, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Jeya Padmanaban, statistics, Mountain View, Calif.; and Thomas Cargill, economics, Reno, Nev.