Case details

Driver claimed he lost control because of misplaced floor mat





Result type

Not present

anxiety, difficulty sleeping, emotional distress, nightmares, phobias
On Oct. 9, 2010, plaintiff Aris Pepes, 59, an employee of the State of California, Department of Consumer Affairs who worked in the Bureau of Auto Repairs, had his car washed and driven back to him by employees of Redhawk Hand Car Wash, in Temecula. After he reversed his vehicle from a parking space, Pepes began to accelerate forward, but in doing so, he lost control of the vehicle. As a result, the vehicle accelerated through a sitting area, where patrons were seated, and struck two patrons. Pepes’ vehicle then hit another vehicle, continued down an embankment, and went onto the street, where it stopped. Pepes claimed emotional distress as a result of the incident. Pepes sued Redhawk Hand Car Wash Inc. and the alleged property owner, Naythan Properties LLC. The matter ultimately continued to trial against Redhawk Hand Car Wash only. Pepes contended that employees of the car wash improperly placed the driver’s side floor mat back in his vehicle, causing his vehicle to begin to accelerate forward without his control. He claimed that the mat interfered with the proper functioning of the vehicle, causing the unwanted acceleration and causing the braking mechanism to not work. Specifically, he alleged that the position of the floor mat was such that when he tried to brake, the vehicle would continue to accelerate. Plaintiff’s counsel introduced a former employee of the car wash who testified that it was the practice of the car wash to turn the floor mats over after vacuuming the vehicle and then replace the floor mats to the proper position before returning the vehicle to the patron. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified that he was able to replicate the unwanted acceleration via improper mat placement during his testing. Defense counsel argued that the fault of the incident was solely with Pepes. Counsel contended that Pepes had no evidence to show there was improper placement of the mat and could not verify its location. Defense counsel argued that employees of Redhawk Hand Car Wash had three interactions with the vehicle and that the only time the mat would have been touched and re-placed would have been when the vehicle was first vacuumed. Counsel contended that after Pepes’ vehicle was vacuumed, it was driven by the employees to the car wash tunnel to be hand waxed and then driven by the employees again when it was brought around to be picked up by Pepes. Counsel also contended that there was no problem with the acceleration when the employees operated the vehicle. In addition, defense counsel noted that an eyewitness, who was across the parking lot, claimed to have saw Pepes reverse the vehicle without incident and then saw that Pepes only had problems when he went forward in the vehicle. Thus, defense counsel argued that Pepes was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that it was not due to any improper placement of a mat. The defense’s expert mechanical engineer opined that the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert could not have replicated the unwanted acceleration using the method that he allegedly used., Pepes claimed that he suffered from emotional distress as a result of being involved in the incident. He alleged that he had nightmares, difficulty sleeping, phobias, and anxiety from the event. Thus, Pepes sought recovery of emotional-distress damages.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Riverside, CA

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