Cases of Note

Airbag Defects

Zepka v. Chrysler

Failure to Incorporate Side Impact Airbags
On August 5, 2009, 2 year old Isabella Zepka was a properly restrained right rear passenger in a 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser that her family had rented from Dollar/Thrifty Car Rental. On that day, as they were making a left hand turn with the green turn arrow onto Westgate Lakes Boulevard the PT Cruiser was struck by another vehicle on its right side where Isabella Zepka was seated. As a result of the impact, Isabella Zepka sustained fatal head and neck injuries. The Didier Law Firm filed suit against Chrysler on behalf of the Estate of Isabella Zepka alleging that the PT Cruiser failed to incorporate a side impact airbag to prevent her fatal head and neck injuries, and that such life-saving safety technology would have saved Isabella’s life. The Estate settled its claims for a confidential amount in July, 2011.

Estate of Amorriz Mikel Williams-Galva v DaimlerChrysler Corporation
Unreasonably Dangerous Front Airbag

Government safety guidelines state children should ride in the back seat until age 12, but sometimes circumstances arise where older children are placed in the front where airbags are in use. On February 13, 2007, Amorriz Mikel Williams-Galva, an eight-year-old minor, was the right front passenger in a 1996 Dodge Intrepid driven by his grandmother, when their vehicle collided with another vehicle. The front airbag deployed, causing fatal injuries to the child. The case was settled for a confidential amount.

Nathan and Kristy Foll v General Motors

Lack of Side Impact Airbags for Second Row Occupants
Minivans are marketed to be family-friendly vehicles, however unless they are equipped with side airbags designed to protect children in the back seats, they may not be the safest option. On April 6, 2006, nine-year-old Kaylee Foll was a restrained passenger in her grandmother’s 2003 Chevrolet Venture, when the vehicle was struck by a dump truck on the left side in the area of the middle row passenger’s seat where Kaylee was seated. As a result of the impact, Kaylee sustained a catastrophic head injury resulting in severe deficits and physical limitations.

The Didier Law Firm filed suit on behalf of the Foll family alleging that the 2003 Chevrolet Venture was unreasonably dangerous and defective for failing to incorporate technologically and economically feasible rear side airbags that could have prevented her head injury. The Plaintiffs also alleged that such airbags could have been installed at the time of the vehicle’s manufacture, and should have been included as a standard safety feature. The case settled for a confidential amount.

The Estate of Mayling Semidey v Ford Motor Company

Unreasonably Dangerous Design of Front Airbag

While airbags are recognized for saving lives, if improperly designed they can have devastating consequences. On November 12, 2003, a jury found Ford Motor Company liable for the March 11, 2000 death of Mayling Semidey.

As trial counsel for the Estate, Mr. Didier presented evidence that Ms. Semidey was killed when her airbag in her 1996 Ford Taurus deployed in a low-speed accident where it was not needed. The jury was also presented with evidence that the airbag was unreasonably dangerous as designed due to its potential to cause injuries and death in low-speed accidents where consumers would otherwise be uninjured.

After a short deliberation, the jury awarded the Estate $3.3 million dollars.

Bus Accidents

Charles W Sherman v Ford Motor Company, et al.

On February 22, 2010, a 2001 Ford/Krystal 32-passenger medium size bus occupied by a driver and 30 passengers was traveling northbound on US Highway 27 near Tampa, Florida in the right lane. As the bus approached an intersection, a 2010 Mercury Sable occupied by an 81-year-old driver entered the center median after crossing the southbound lanes and struck the bus on the left side, overturning it and ejecting at least 8 passengers. The Didier Law Firm was retained to investigate the possible product defects that may have contributed to the tragic deaths and serious injuries that occurred, and, based upon same, are currently prosecuting a crashworthiness case on behalf of victims to this accident. The case is ongoing.

Consumer Product Defects

Ranfone v PetSafe

Defectively Designed Pet Door

On August 18, 2006, 2-year-old Matthew Ranfone crawled through a medium sized PetSafe Pet Door Panel, accessed a swimming pool, and nearly drowned. He suffered a catastrophic brain injury which ultimately resulted in his death days later. The Didier Law Firm filed suit alleging that the pet door was defective and unreasonably dangerous to consumers because it failed to incorporate any safety features to prevent children from exiting, provided no warnings of the potential danger, and that economically-available alternative designs existed. The lawsuit settled for a confidential amount, and resulted in the company adding warning labels to all of its products regarding the risk to children of utilizing pet doors.

James Hemphill v Helmtec Inc.

Defectively Designed Motorcycle Helmet

Despite representations to the contrary, not all consumer products designed to protect consumers from injury perform as intended when needed. On April 22, 1997, James Hemphill was involved in a motorcycle accident after he was cut-off by another vehicle. Mr. Hemphill was thrown from his motorcycle, hit the side of another car and then came to rest on the ground.

While he was wearing his helmet it was alleged that it failed to protect him as intended and that he sustained a severe brain injury as a result. The case settled for a confidential amount.

Sanchez v Polaris

Unreasonably Dangerous Jet Ski design

Watersports and Florida go hand in hand. But, dangers can lurk, especially on the water. On August 18th, 2004, Angelina Sanchez was a rear-most seated passenger on a 1998 Polaris Personal Watercraft when she fell off the back into forcible jet thrusts used to propel the watercraft. As a result, Miss Sanchez sustained severe orifice injuries.

As counsel for the Plaintiff, Mr. Didier alleged that the jet ski was unreasonably dangerous in its design because of the risk to rear-seated passengers who can fall into the jet propulsion. Further, the company failed to take adequate steps in designing the seat to prevent children from falling off the back.

The case was settled for a confidential amount.

Fuel System Defects

Estate of Mitchell Bartlett et al. v General Motors Corp.

Post Collision Fuel Fed Fire

Surviving a serious accident is sometimes credited as a miracle, but then to perish post-collision due to vehicle defect is all the more tragic. On September 17, 2005, Mitchell Bartlett was driving a 1996 Cadillac Seville along with two passengers when he lost control and left the roadway, rolled over, and came to final rest up against a tree which crushed the roof into the occupant compartment. Despite the damage, however, the three occupants survived the initial crash. Thereafter, a fire originating near the vehicle’s fuel storage and fuel delivery system engulfed the vehicle and its occupants in flames, leading to their deaths.

The Didier Law Firm filed suit alleging that the fuel delivery system was defective, creating a foreseeable risk that post-accident fires could occur and that the system lacked necessary safety features, like valves designed to close to prevent the release of fuel. The case was settled for a confidential amount.

Estate of Monica Quintanilla v General Motors

Post Collision Fuel Fed Fire

By its very nature, the occurrence of fire can significantly increase the risk of injury in motor vehicle crashes, especially when occupants are trapped post-accident. On September 1, 2003, Monica Quintanilla was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Astro Van when a vehicle crossed the center line into oncoming traffic and collided with the vehicle she was operating. Ms. Quintanilla suffered non-life threatening injuries in the collision; however, her foot was entrapped near the floor. Thereafter, her vehicle became engulfed in flames causing her death.

The Didier Law Firm filed suit on behalf of her children alleging that the lack of an adequate crush zone and failure to properly manage or prevent the vehicle’s flammable fluids from being released in foreseeable crashes resulted in the post-accident fuel-fed fire that killed Ms. Quintanilla. The case was settled for a confidential amount.

Heavy Equipment Defects

Corbett v. Arctic Cat, Inc.

Defective Safety Systems

Michael Joseph Scott Corbett took a test drive of a 2008 Arctic Cat Thundercat 1000 ATV while attending the Jasper Rodeo on May 4, 2008. Within minutes of beginning the ride, Mr. Corbett hit a divot causing the ATV to roll over and land on top of him with the tires in direct contact with his body. The ATV has a safety system which, upon tilting past 65 degrees, is designed to shut off the engine automatically to prevent injuries. The Didier Law Firm filed suit alleging that, despite such design, Arctic Cat chose to use a tilt sensor that was known to give false signals about the vehicle’s position, and, as a result, the ATV did not shut off in this accident. Using Arctic Cat’s own internal documents, Mr. Didier proved that the company knew five months before manufacturing this ATV that it had a problem with the tilt sensor, but chose to leave the tilt sensor on the ATV instead of fixing it. The Didier Law Firm, P.A. obtained an $8.4 million dollar verdict on behalf of Mr. Corbett on February 2, 2012.

The Estate of Doroteo Ortiz et. al. v John Deere Company

Defective Design

Every year hundreds of people are injured or killed in construction site accidents. On February 17, 2000, Mr. Doroteo Ortiz and Mr. Jose Rivas were fatally injured when a John Deere 310E Backhoe Loader crushed them after it unexpectedly lunged forward into the area they were working. Mr. Didier pursued claims against John Deere alleging that the installation of simple design alternatives to prevent unintended movement could have averted the tragedy. The case settled for a confidential amount.

Industrial Product Defects

Steve Holliman v Southern Agcom, Inc.

Workplace Hazards / Negligent Repair

Even with safeguards in place, workplaces can present unique challenges with regard to employee safety. On February 14, 2003, a jury found Southern Agcom, Inc. responsible for the injuries and damages of Steve Holliman who was catastrophically injured on November 7, 1996 after a workplace accident caused the near amputation of his right leg. On that day, the jury found that Southern Agcom, Inc. had improperly removed a safety grate for repairs, leaving the moving components of a large grain auger exposed. As a result of Southern Agcom, Inc.’s failure to warn of the dangers posed by the open equipment and to implement recognized protective safety measures Mr. Holliman was permitted to fall into the open grain auger and was injured.

The jury awarded a $1.8 million to Mr. Holliman and his wife.

Occupant Ejections

Layland v Ford Motor Company

Door Latch & Restraint System Defects

On July 11, 2007, 53 year old Carol Layland was the belted front seat passenger in a 1998 Ford Explorer being driven by her son in Hillsborough County, Florida. The driver swerved to avoid an animal in the roadway, over-corrected and lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle rolled several times, and the right passenger door came open, allowing Ms. Layland to be partially ejected through the door opening. Plaintiff suffered catastrophic head and facial injuries, a traumatic brain injury, and was comatose for several months following the accident. Mrs. Layland remains blind and disfigured as the result of the accident. The Didier Law Firm filed suit against Ford Motor Co. alleging that the design of the door latch system was defective and unreasonably dangerous due to its propensity to cause the door to open when subjected to forces exerted during foreseeable rollover accidents. Further, Plaintiff’s counsel alleged that the occupant restraint system was defective due to its failure to secure Mrs. Layland within the occupant compartment. The case was settled for a confidential amount in June, 2010.

Shirley Sullivan v General Motors Corporation

Seatback and Rear Liftgate Design Defects

Occupant containment in accidents is critical to ensure safety. On March 25, 2002, Shirley Sullivan was a belted second-row occupant in her 2002 Buick Rendezvous. Her vehicle was struck in the side by another car and as a result it was alleged that her seat back failed rearward and that the rear hatch opened.

Ms. Sullivan was ejected and sustained severe internal injuries. The case settled for a confidential amount.

Glenn W. Brummer v DaimlerChrysler Corporation

Seatback Failure and Lack of Window Glazing

When an occupant is ejected from a vehicle during a crash, they are three times more likely to suffer from catastrophic or fatal injuries. On March 25, 2006, Glenn Brummer sustained a catastrophic brain and physical injuries when he lost control of a 2003 PT Cruiser and was ejected out the rear window after it shattered when the car spun and struck a guard rail.

The Didier Law Firm sued the vehicle manufacturer alleging that the vehicle’s front seat failed inboard and that the use of tempered glass in the rear hatch then allowed Mr. Brummer to be ejected outside of the vehicle. The Plaintiffs alleged the choice to utilize tempered glass versus laminated window shield glass rendered the vehicle defective. The case settled for a confidential amount.


Rodney McCormick, deceased v. Ford Motor Company

The high center of gravity in SUVs, minivans and light trucks lead to a greater propensity for rollover accidents, however technologies exist to mitigate this risk. On June 28, 2004, Rodney McCormick was the belted driver of a 2001 Ford Explorer traveling approximately 70 miles per hour in the middle lane of traffic. Mr. McCormick changed lanes into the left lane of traffic, when the left front of his vehicle collided with the right rear of another vehicle. After the impact, Mr. McCormick’s vehicle veered into the median and overturned. Mr. McCormick died at the scene as a result of multiple blunt force trauma. The Didier Law firm alleged that alternative design options existed that could have prevented Mr. McCormick’s SUV from rolling over.

The case settled for a confidential amount.

Roof Crush

Sandra Sigourney v Honda Motor Company, LTD., Isuzu Motors Limited et. al.

Defectively Designed Roof Structure and Restraint System

With SUVs dominating American highways, a rise in rollover accidents has been seen. Often, the roof structures of these vehicles are incapable of withstanding the forces of these accidents and consumers can be injured. On April 28, 2002, Sandra Sigourney was involved in a rollover accident after her 1996 Honda Passport left the roadway.

As a result of the accident Mrs. Sigourney sustained a neck injury rendering her a quadriplegic. Suit was filed, and it was alleged that alternative design options existed to strengthen the roof and to otherwise protect consumers like Mrs. Sigourney from significant injury in rollover accidents. The case settled for a confidential amount.

Seatback Failures

Bruce Melsha v General Motors Corporation

Seatback and Headrest Failure

On or about November 6, 2004, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Melsha were traveling in their 2000 Chevrolet Malibu when they were struck from behind by another vehicle. While Mr. Melsha was wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash, as a result of the impact, his seat back failed rearward and his headrest broke allowing his back to flex rearward over the top of the seat rendering him a paraplegic.

The Didier Law Firm alleged that the seat back and headrest must be designed to work together as a system to prevent occupants from being injured in moderate crashes, and that the failure of the seat and breakage of the headrest was a result of a defective design. The case was settled for a confidential amount.

Edward J. Luke, II v General Motors Corporation

Seatback Failure and Defective Rear Hatch Window

In rear-end accidents it is critical that the seat perform as intended and keep the occupant in position. If the seatback fails, the occupant can move backwards and be severely injured.

On February 1, 2004, E.J. Luke was rear-ended while waiting to turn left at a light. As a result of the impact it was alleged that his seatback failed backward and allowed him to be ejected out the rear hatch of his 1995 Chevy Camaro. Mr. Luke was rendered a paraplegic. The case settled for a confidential amount.

Seatbelt Failures

Patricia Johnson v General Motors Corporation

Driver’s Seat Belt/Retractor Failure

Current statistics show more than 80% of drivers use their seat belt, preventing countless injuries and fatalities on a daily basis. However, even these life-saving devices sometimes fail to perform. On or about July 10, 2004, Patricia Johnson, was traveling on a Kansas highway in her 2004 Chevrolet Venture when it veered off the roadway to the left. Upon returning to the roadway it began to roll, during which, the occupant restraint system Mrs. Johnson was utilizing failed to keep her properly restrained, and, as a result, she was completely ejected from the vehicle and sustained fatal injuries.

The Didier Law Firm filed suit on behalf of Mrs. Johnson’s estate alleging that the seat belt system’s retractor failed to lock allowing the seat belt to spool out during the roll sequence resulting in Mrs. Johnson being ejected. The case settled for a confidential amount.

Sudden Unintended Acceleration

Diane Hodges vs. Toyota Motor Corporation

While driving on a Michigan highway, Diane Hodges’ 2007 Lexus ES 350 unintentionally accelerated to dangerous speeds. Ms. Hodges attempted to bring her vehicle under control, but she was unable to stop the vehicle from accelerating. As a result, she collided with a guardrail and her vehicle rolled over. During the course of NHTSA’s investigation, it was learned that, on the morning of the accident, Ms. Hodges had taken her original carpet mat out of the driver floor and replaced it with an all weather mat because it was raining. However, Ms. Hodges was unaware that the all weather mat had the potential to interfere with, or entrap, the throttle pedal, or that it represented any hazard when unsecured.

Throttle entrapment due to an unsecured all weather floor mat was studied in NHTSA defect investigations and was the subject of Toyota Safety Recall 07E-082. NHTSA investigators and Toyota representatives concluded that the All Weather Floor Mats interfered with the normal operation of the accelerator, causing the unintentional acceleration and subsequent accident.

Ms. Hodges sustained a cervical sprain, pelvic injury, and a head injury. Ms. Hodges also sustained significant back problems when her existing degenerative disc condition was exacerbated by the subject accident. Ms. Hodges received no warnings that would have led her to know about this defect. Ms. Hodges further received no instructions on how to respond to the floor mats being stuck in order for her to bring the vehicle to an eventual stop. The case was settled for a confidential amount.

Tire Failures

Estate of Scott Bowden v Michelin North America, Rahal Chevrolet-Buick, Inc.

Tire Failure/ Negligent Inspection and Repair

With every passing year consumers are becoming more aware of the hazards associated with tire failures. On July 5, 2001, Scott Bowden was killed when his vehicle rolled over after the left-rear tire on his 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe failed.

Mr. Didier pursued claims not only against the tire manufacturer for alleged defects in the tire, but pursued the dealership who last inspected it before the failure for their alleged negligence. The case settled with both parties for confidential amounts.

Trailer Sway

Dorothy Barnett v Sunnybrook, et al

Defective Trailer – Trailer Sway Device and Tow Vehicle

The dangers associated with towing trailers are generally not fully appreciated by consumers. Also, adequate information about the appropriate steps to take to control a trailer once it begins to sway is not provided. As a result, each year numerous needless deaths and injuries occur.

On November 24, 2002, Dr. John Barnett was killed after his 31 foot long Sunnybrook Travel Trailer began to sway after being passed by a tractor trailer.

It was alleged that insufficient information was provided to the Barnett family about trailer sway, and that they were not told the appropriate responses to sway to prevent a loss of control situation. It was also alleged that the vehicle-trailer-hitch combination was defective in that it did not prevent or minimize the potential for trailer sway in the first place. The case settled for a confidential amount.

Tread Separations

Howeedy v Bridgestone/Firestone, et al

On March 21, 2004, the Howeedy family was traveling in their 1995 Ford Windstar on the Florida Turnpike when the vehicle’s right rear tire tread separated, causing them to lose control and crash. Wife and mother Amani Abou-El-Eila was severely injured and rendered a paraplegic, eight-year-old Ranya Howeedy sustained severe injuries, and 14-year-old Lila and four-year-old Kareem died in the accident.

Mr. Didier filed suit alleging that the Bridgestone tire failed to incorporate critical components such as nylon overlays or nylon edge layers to reduce or eliminate belt edge separation or tread belt separation.

The case was settled for a confidential amount.

Viel v Kumho Tires, et al

On August 21, 1999, Palmer LaSala was driving his 1994 Toyota Tercel with passengers Donna and Joseph Viel. The car lost control and crossed the median into oncoming traffic after the left rear tread separated from the tire, resulting in a horrific accident. Palmer LaSala and Donna Viel were killed, and Joseph Viel suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the crash.

Suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs alleging the tire catastrophically failed as a result of tread belt separation. The tread belt separation resulted from defective design and manufacture.

The case was settled for a confidential amount.

Trucking Accidents

Rentas v. Williamson Distributors, Inc./Tucker

Florida Motor Carrier Safety Violation

Julio Rentas, Jr. was driving his commercial tractor-trailer on I-95 in Flagler County, FL when another tractor trailer driven by Betty Ann Tucker suddenly pulled from the shoulder back onto the highway directly in front of him, causing him to strike the rear of Ms. Tucker’s truck and resulting in a fatal accident. During trial, the Didier Law Firm presented evidence that Betty Ann Tucker and her employer, Williamson Distributors, Inc., had a duty to ensure adherence to the 14-hour “Hour of Service” Rule of the Florida Motor Carrier Safety Act §395.3 (FMCSA), which restricts driving a commercial vehicle beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty to ensure truck drivers get the necessary rest to perform safe operations. The Didier Law Firm argued that Ms. Tucker was fatigued, and, as a result, caused the collision to occur when she pulled off of the side of the highway in front of Plaintiff. The Didier Law Firm, P.A. obtained a $3 million dollar verdict for the Estate of Mr. Rentas on August 15, 2011.

Vehicle Stability

The Estate of Carolina Caltabiano v Suzuki

Directionally Unstable Vehicle Design

The stability of vehicles, particularly sport utility vehicles, is a function of numerous factors. Decisions made in the design process can have significant effects on the ability of drivers to control their vehicles during foreseeable accident avoidance situations.

On July 19, 2000, Carolina Caltabiano was ejected and killed when the driver of the vehicle she was a passenger in lost control after to trying re-gain control after briefly leaving the road. Ultimately, the driver was unable to keep control of her 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, and it rolled over. It was alleged that the design of the vehicle made it unstable and prone to roll over in these types of situations. The case settled for a confidential amount.

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The Didier Law Firm, located in Orlando, Florida, specializes in litigating product liability cases and aggressively advocating for clients to obtain the best possible results. We specialize in representing consumers against manufacturers in a broad range of automotive defect cases.

This emphasis includes claims relating to unsafe airbags, tire failures, seatback and seatbelt failures, and rollover stability cases. The firm also handles a multitude of cases relating to defective designs of industrial products and heavy equipment.

Every year thousands of new products enter the market. The Didier Law Firm is there to advocate on behalf of clients who are catastrophically injured or die as a result of defective products.

To ensure that our clients receive the best representation possible, the firm employs every tool available to obtain high quality results. We retain nationally recognized experts in their respective fields to evaluate, pursue and present testimony at trial on defect related issues.

We maintain relationships throughout the nation with other product safety attorneys and advocacy groups to ensure access to valuable information and knowledge that can assist our clients in their pursuit of justice. We utilize state of the art technology to organize data, to evaluate technical information, and to present evidence to juries.

Lastly, we work tirelessly to apply our knowledge and experience to ensure that each case is pursued in the most efficient and effective way possible to win.

At the end of the day, who we are is defined by the service we provide to clients who trust us to represent them, and the work we do as product safety attorneys to bring about justice for consumers injured or wrongfully killed by unsafe products.