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Case Example: Lewis v. Toyota

Posted on April 1, 2016

On March 8, 2008, Dr. Noreen Lewis found herself hanging upside down in a rented Toyota Sienna minivan. The vehicle – with six occupants on a family excursion – had rolled over repeatedly down a ravine. The accident injured everyone on board, including Dr. Lewis, who was left with virtually no use of her left arm—effectively ending her career as a family physician.

Duffy + Partners represented Dr. Lewis in this landmark case, which ultimately earned her just compensation for her injuries: during the course of the five-week trial, the car dealership offered $1.7 million to settle the case. At the end, a jury awarded a total of $15.7 million, $11.4 million for Dr. Lewis personally.

At issue was who was at fault for the accident—the owner of the vehicle, which was PhillyCarShare, or the business that maintained it, Central City Toyota. The defense also asserted that Dr. Lewis could have been driving at too high a speed for a wet roadway. The story unfolded during testimony.

Dr. Lewis rented the minivan so that she and her family could attend her daughter’s school play in Hancock, N.Y. They decided to go to dinner after the play in Binghamton. But as they were leaving the school parking lot, the “check engine” light came on. Dr. Lewis contacted PhillyCarShare, who advised her to take the car to a service station and the company would pay for the service.

The accident occurred en route to the Sam’s Club service station. Dr. Lewis testified that she felt a jerk. Then the wheels locked, the vehicle skidded and struck a barrier cable. It flipped into the median, and then rolled into a ditch flipping over an additional three times. A witness driving behind her testified that she was “driving within the speed limit and did not seem out of control when it started veering to the left.”

Experts retained by Duffy + Partners testified that the accident was caused by a worn and deteriorated ball joint in the front right passenger side of the Sienna. Examination showed that damage had been longstanding, “contaminated with hardened, dirty grease that had been exposed to the weather long before this failure occurred.”

If you had a motor vehicle accident where you believe it may have been due to negligence, contact us today. We’ll discuss the details in a free consultation.