Case details

Family claimed car dealer failed to inspect tires, led to accident





Result type

Not present

chronic pain, fractured left clavicle, fractured left scapula, head lacerations, left ankle injury, multiple lacerations right elbow, right distal fibular fracture, right pelvic fracture, right proximal tibia-fibular fracture, right-foot metatarsal fracture, soft-tissue injuries
On Feb. 6, 2010, plaintiffs Flavia Ocampo Roche, a nurse aide, her husband, Benito Ocampo Bahena, and their children, Evelyn, 16, and Michael, 12, were in their Cadillac Escalade EXT, a luxury sport utility vehicle, heading south on State Route 99, in Merced County. As they drove, the right rear tire blew out, and they pulled to the side of the road. The parents got out of the SUV to inspect the damage. Roche was helping her husband change the tire when a vehicle driven by Joshua Ramirez, who was traveling in the same direction as the plaintiffs, swerved to avoid tire debris from the blow out and lost control. He struck Roche. She sustained to her head, left shoulder, right elbow, and right foot and leg, among other . Bahena suffered soft-tissue and abrasions his leg, which struck the bumper of the SUV. Michael sustained a minor arm fracture when his arm hit something inside the vehicle. Evelyn was not physically injured but claimed emotional distress. Plaintiffs contended the tire blow-out was caused by tread separation. They had bought the vehicle less than two months before the accident, from Legend Auto, a used-car dealership in Sacramento. Legend Auto had bought the SUV from Brasher’s Sacramento Auto Auction Inc. The plaintiffs sued Joshua Ramirez, the driver that struck them, and the owners of his vehicle, Susan Rodriguez and Pedro Oregel Madrigal. They also sued Legend Auto, alleging general negligence, motor vehicle negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiffs brought products liability claims against tire manufacturer Sumitomo Tire and Legend Auto. (Sumitomo Tire was dismissed, following a successful motion for summary judgment. The company produced evidence that the tire was not defective when Sumitomo sold it, and that the subsequent damaged condition would have been visible to Legend Auto, had it made a reasonable inspection. Sumitomo Tire’s expert was prepared to testify for plaintiffs.) Legend Auto cross-claimed for indemnification against Brasher’s Sacramento Auto Auction Inc. On December 2015, the plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint to include punitive damages against Legend Auto for fraud and concealment, based on deposition testimony of Legend’s owner regarding the transaction. The motion was granted, and trial was set to commence in June 2016. Plaintiffs asserted that Legend Auto had a detailed “vehicle condition report” from Brasher’s Sacramento Auto Auction and that the report identified multiple serious problems with the tires, including balding and uneven tread wear and mismatched tire sizes, none of which were disclosed to plaintiffs prior to purchase. Plaintiffs further argued that even without the report, the tire defects could have been easily discovered with a simple vehicle safety inspection, which is mandatory in the used-car industry prior to selling a vehicle. However, in an effort to rush the sale (plaintiffs had placed $17,000 in cash as a down-payment), Legend Auto did not perform the inspection and concealed the tires’ defective and unsafe condition, which was detailed in the condition report. Legend Auto denied that the tires had obvious defects at the time of sale and argued that, prior to sale, it had the vehicle inspected by a third party, Import Specialists, which had certified that the tires were safe. Import Specialists testified, however, that no one at the company recalled such an inspection, and there was no documentation that an inspection occurred. Legend Auto also argued that it was not liable, since all of plaintiffs’ damages were the result of an intervening, superseding cause, the alleged negligence of the other driver, Joshua Ramirez. Further, Legend Auto claimed Brasher’s Sacramento Auto Auction was liable, because it knew of the defects and it was obligated to change the tires prior to sale., The family (except Evelyn, who was not physically hurt) was taken to a nearby hospital. Bahena and Michael were treated at the emergency room and released. Roche was hospitalized for 19 days. She sustained a fractured left clavicle, a fractured left scapula, a right pelvic fracture, a right proximal tibia-fibular fracture, a right distal fibular fracture, a right-foot metatarsal fracture, a left ankle injury, head lacerations, and multiple lacerations to the right elbow. After she was discharged from the hospital, she had limited treatment: physical therapy, doctors’ office visits, and one surgery to remove hardware from her pelvic/sacral area. Her past medical expenses were $33,708.67, paid by Medi-Cal. She did not return to work as a nurse’s aide, due to physical limitations, including diminished mobility and strength and chronic pain. Bahena sustained soft-tissue and abrasions to his leg, which have fully healed. Michael’s arm injury has fully healed. He is 18 and a high school senior. Evelyn, now 22 years old, had no physical but claimed bystander emotional distress (citing Dillon v. Legg). She had no counseling.
Superior Court of Sacramento County, Sacramento, CA

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