Recently, in Quinton v. Toyota Motor Corp. et al., No. 1:10-cv-02187 (D.S.C. April 17, 2013), the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina opined on some motions for summary judgment in another Toyota product liability suit. The matter arose out of a single vehicle accident that occurred in 2009 in Aiken, South Carolina. April Quinton, driving a rented 2009 Toyota Camry, lost control of the vehicle when entering a left-hand turn. The Camry exited the road, rolled over several times, and came to a rest. Quinton sustained a head injury in the accident and died nine days later. Quinton’s estate filed a wrongful death action against Toyota, alleging that Quinton’s death was caused by defects in the vehicle’s seat belt restraint system, roof structure, and supplemental restraint system.
On Toyota’s motion for summary judgment, the Plaintiff did not contest the lack of evidence regarding the seat belt restraint system and roof structure and, thus, the motion was granted. The Court held, however, that there was at least some issue of fact concerning the defective design of the supplemental restraint system. The vehicle’s supplemental restraint system consisted of frontal airbags, side torso airbags and curtain shield airbags mounted along the roof. However, the 2009 Camry lacked rollover-activated curtain shield airbags (“RCSA”). Toyota argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because the Plaintiff’s expert did not opine that the failure to include the RCSA made the system defective or unreasonably dangerous. Nonetheless, the Court held that the Plaintiff had met her burden to demonstrate that the lack of a RCSA was a design flaw and that the RCSA was a feasible alternative design. Toyota’ Accident Data Analysis Report revealed that RCSA’s could lead to a 50 percent reduction in fatalities. Toyota’s expert also indicated the installation of RCSAs was possible from a technological and economic standpoint. Given this evidence, the Court found there to be a genuine issue of material fact and denied Toyota’s motion.