Case details

Plaintiff: Vehicle’s bolts not being properly tightened caused crash





Result type

Not present

biceps tendon, cervical, cervical spine, elbow, fusion, herniated disc, neck, right arm, shoulder, tear shoulder
On Oct. 25, 2011, plaintiff Kenneth Fry, 63, a television producer, was driving his 1990 Toyota 4Runner on the Ventura Freeway (State Route 134), in Glendale, going 65 mph in the fast lane, when the front portion of the drive shaft became unbolted and dropped from the vehicle. Fry and his wife previously drove the 4Runner from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona, to visit Fry’s mother on Thanksgiving. However, during the drive, they began to hear a rumbling noise emanate from the undercarriage of the vehicle. As a result, Fry brought the vehicle to Larry Miller Toyota Peoria’s facility, in Arizona, on the morning of Nov. 26, 2010. Later that afternoon, Fry was called and told that the drive shaft was faulty and needed to be replaced, which Fry agreed to have done. He then came to pick up the vehicle the following Monday and, upon test-driving it, noticed that the noise was still there. He was subsequently told that additional inspections could be done to identify the noise, but that it was safe to drive back to Los Angeles, which he did. After the holidays, on Jan. 9, 2011, Fry took the 4Runner to DCH Toyota of Torrance, which identified the front axles as being the source of the rumbling noise and replaced it. DCH Toyota was aware that the drive shaft had been recently replaced in Arizona, and a visual inspection confirmed that the drive shaft appeared to be bolted on tightly and not causing any noise. Fry’s wife test drove the vehicle following DCH Toyota’s repair and confirmed the noise was gone. However, when Fry was driving the 4Runner on the Ventura Freeway on Oct. 25, 2011, the front portion of the drive shaft became unbolted and dropped from the vehicle. As a result, the rear portion of the vehicle vaulted up several feet and upon coming down, the vehicle veered to the right. Fry, unable to stop the vehicle, pulled the emergency brake and was able to bring the 4Runner to a stop on the shoulder without further incident. Fry claimed that the incident caused to his right arm and shoulder, and cervical spine. Fry sued Larry Miller Toyota Peoria; DCH Torrance Imports Inc.; and DCH Toyota & Scion of Torrance, which was doing business as DCH Toyota of Torrance. Fry contended that the defendants were negligent in the repair of the 4Runner. The DCH entities ultimately settled out of the case one year before trial. Thus, the matter proceeded to trial against Larry Miller Toyota of Torrance only. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the only way the drive shaft could have fallen from the vehicle within 12 months of being replaced is if the technician at Larry Miller Toyota tightened the four bolts, but failed to properly tighten the bolts to the torque specified by the manufacturer (54 ft. lbs.) and failed to apply thread locker to the bolts as a secondary safety measure. Counsel also contended that over time, the bolts became loose due to the rotational forces of the drive shaft and eventually fell out one by one. Counsel for Larry Miller Toyota Peoria contended that the technician at Larry Miller Toyota Peoria properly tightened the bolts to the manufacturer’s specification and applied thread locker on the bolts. Counsel argued that the drive shaft fell out for several reasons. First, counsel contended that when Fry picked up the vehicle at the Larry Miller Toyota Peoria facility, he was warned that further repairs and diagnostics were needed to be performed, but that Fry failed to take the advice of the technician. Second, Larry Miller Toyota Peoria’s counsel contended that there was a vibration emanating from the undercarriage of the vehicle where the drive shaft connected to the transmission, which Fry was very well aware of, that caused the properly tightened bolts to back out over time. Third, counsel contended that the second dealership, DCH, replaced the axles and was in the best position to check the tightness of the drive shaft bolts and that DCH even said that, at least as of January 2011, the bolts appeared to be tight. Lastly, counsel contended that when the vehicle left DCH Toyota of Torrance, the vibration coming from the undercarriage was not properly fixed and it continued until it caused the bolts to back out some nine months later. Thus, counsel for Larry Miller Toyota Peoria argued that Fry and the subsequent Toyota facility, DCH, were completely at fault, or at least comparatively at fault, for the drive shaft falling out., Fry claimed that when the rear of the vehicle vaulted up, the ceiling of the cabin came crashing down on top of his head and axially loaded his cervical spine. Thus, he claimed he suffered two acutely herniated cervical discs at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels. He also claimed that he tore the biceps tendon and anchor in his right, dominant shoulder when he forcefully and emergently pulled the emergency brake to bring the vehicle to a stop. Fry ultimately underwent an arthroscopic repair of his right shoulder and a two-level cervical discectomy and fusion at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels of his cervical spine in 2014. Counsel for Larry Miller Toyota Peoria contended that Fry only suffered a sprain of his shoulder and neck as a result of the incident. Counsel argued that the neck surgery was required because of the extensive degeneration Fry had throughout his cervical spine. Counsel also argued that Fry’s need for shoulder surgery was not necessitated because of the incident. Larry Miller Toyota Peoria’s counsel further argued that Fry had a previous shoulder surgery almost 1.5 years before the subject incident because of degeneration and that the second surgery on his shoulder following the incident was to address additional pathology that was left behind during the first surgery.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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