Wal-Mart to pay nearly $19 Million for Deadly Crash

Car accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that Wal-Mart was recently held accountable for its part in a fatal accident that resulted from a blown tire. The jury awarded $18.9 million to the family of the woman and her two children who died the crash.

The case involved a Wal-Mart employee in Iowa who put a new tire on a rusted, eroded rim which ultimately caused the vehicle, a minivan, to roll over. The van was filled with eight people returning home from a trip to California. Three of those riding in the van died at the time of the crash, and three others were injured.

A back tire went flat while the passengers were passing through Iowa in late 2009. A local Samaritan noticed their van on the side of the road, picked them up, and brought them to the Wal-Mart in Creston. Here, mechanics installed a new tire on the back rim, although the rim was noticeably eroded and rusting. It is standard practice in the automotive industry to never put a new tire on eroded rims as it is incredibly dangerous, particularly when the car is travelling long distances.

Although Wal-Mart’s training materials and industry standards make this practice very clear, the mechanic proceeded to install the tire. The group was on an interstate highway in Indiana when the driver veered over to avoid hitting debris that was in the road. During the sudden movement the back rim failed completely, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

The minivan flipped over multiple times, killing a woman and her two small children, and seriously injuring three other passengers. One passenger suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost his right leg in the roll over. Another suffered significant injuries to her right hand. Fortunately, the other passengers sustained only minor injuries.

The lawsuit alleged negligence on the part of Wal-Mart and the driver of the minivan. The Maryland jury determined that that driver was not negligent, and placed full responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Wal-Mart.

The trial was particularly difficult because the minivan was scrapped before the plaintiffs hired a lawyer, so they were only able to use photos taken by police and witnesses at the scene of the crash. Plaintiffs also called an expert to trial, who analyzed a GPS taken from the minivan, which was able to provide information about the second-by-second vehicle’s performance, speed, angle, and location leading up to the crash. Wal-Mart unsuccessfully argued that, because the minivan’s parts were scrapped before the trial began, the case should not continue.

In a similar case, Wal-Mart was found responsible for a crash in 2010 that killed a San Diego teenager. A jury determined the company should pay $27.5 million. The teenager brought his pick-up truck to a Wal-Mart for a 15-point service inspection, which included tire and overall vehicle inspection. About three months after the service was completed, the vehicle hydroplaned, crashed, and killed the lone occupant.

Investigators determined that the truck’s eroding tires contributed to the crash, although Wal-Mart employees found no tire damage during the service inspection. The Texas jury decided that Wal-Mart was negligent and responsible for the crash because it failed to perform reasonable and adequate services and failed to inform the driver that the tires were insufficient and dangerous.

American consumers expect that those we entrust with our vehicles have the knowledge, experience, expertise, and training to perform adequate repair, inspection, and maintenance. Anything less than this is unacceptable, and, as seen here, can lead to catastrophic and devastating consequences. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm affirm that mistakes and oversights do occur in repair and mechanic shops. If you or a loved one was killed or seriously injured in an auto accident due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to significant compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

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