When was the last time you brought your motor vehicle in for service at the dealership where you bought your car ? Did the Connecticut auto repair service manager ask you if you wanted the standard service maintenance work performed for the noted mileage on your automobile? Did you decline to follow the vehicle's maintenance schedule ? Did you tell the automobile technician to just "change the oil" ? Lets be honest. The reason that you didn't go by the book was that you didn't want to spend the money to get your car properly serviced and inspected. Were you being negligent by not following a scheduled service maintenance plan? Do you think that you were rolling the dice with your safety, the safety of your passengers or the safety of other Connecticut motor vehicle operators? These are viable questions that address the legal issue of the standard of care for properly maintaining your automobile.The next time you bring your motor vehicle or car in for servicing and are inclined to decline a full service inspection, I want you to remember the story I'm going to tell you about a motor vehicle wheel failure case our office successfully litigated against a negligent Seymour, Connecticut defendant who failed to follow his automobile service manual.
Our plaintiff was a retired school teacher from Beacon Falls, Connecticut. She loved the outdoors and wild life in particular. Upon returning from a wildlife rescue, she encountered a high speed rotating wheel in her Route 8 southbound travel lane in Naugatuck, Connecticut. The rotating high speed wheel belonged to a Seymour, Connecticut defendant operating a 2005 Kia Sedona mini van. The defendant operator was travelling northbound on Route 8 in Naugatuck, Connecticut when his rear wheel disengaged from his mini van and "jumped" a jersey barrier. This wheel picked up so much velocity that it crushed the roof of the plaintiff's car, blew out the front windshield and left a massive tire print on the hood of the client's Subaru Legacy.
The personal injuries suffered by our client from this collision included a corneal abrasion to the eye, neck compression resulting in cervical strain, assorted facial cuts and abrasions from the shattered windshield and a fibrocartilage right wrist / hand tear with an ulna bone bruise caused by impact trauma.
The defendant owner/operator claimed no knowledge of why the rear wheel came off of his mini van. The initial Connecticut State Police accident site inspection documented rear wheel hub failure. The issue in our negligence case against the driver was proving actual or constructive driver notice that the driver's wheel was structurally unsound when he drove his automobile on to a Connecticut highway. This case was not going to be a slam dunk on the issue of driver liability! So what did we do? Our office did what we were supposed to do when encountering a tough case. We hired multiple experts!
The experts we hired were schooled in mechanical engineering and commercial motor vehicle service repair. Our mechanical engineering expert was Peter Chen of CED Investigative Technologies, Inc. located in Shelton, Connecticut. Our automobile mechanic expert. was Kenneth Sherman, a City of Waterbury central vehicle prevention maintenance specialist with over 25 years of automotive experience.
Our experts opined that the defendant's rear wheel hub failure was the result of failure in the inner and outer bearing race caused by contaminated grease degraded from dirt and moisture. The heat and friction combined with the grease degradation on the bearings resulted in metal adhesions, fusing and ultimately failure. The key, however, was that the metal adhesions and fusing was so severe that the contamination of the grease and bearing break down would have been going on over an extended period of time. Mr. Sherman opined that the defendant's motor vehicle wheel would have pulled, vibrated and made a marble like grinding noise putting the defendant on notice well before catastrophic failure. Spoilation of evidence notice letters were also sent to the defendant's auto body shop and the defendant's insurance carrier who preserved the wheel hub for full mechanical inspection.
Mr. Sherman secured the 2005 Kia Sedona Scheduled Service Maintenance Table. This table noted that manufacturer required drive axle bearing and joint inspections were to be performed at 22,500, 45,000 , 75,000 and 112,500 mile intervals. Mr. Peter Chen, a mechanical engineer, secured car fax service records that noted that none of these standard inspections were performed by the defendant at any reputable service repair facility. Finally, Mr. Chen also secured National Highway Transportation Safety Administration records that documented overwelming complaints by Kia Sedona owners and operators who reported wheel hub assembly bearing prefailure by way of noises that included sounds such as grinding, cracking and roaring. Both experts also conducted a full post wheel hub assembly failure inspection.
This automobile / rotating wheel high impact collision case was filed in the Waterbury Superior court by Attorney Peter Rotatori, III of Southbury, Connecticut. Private detective Lara Kolesnik of Woodbury, Connecticut worked on this case securing many key photographs and fact witness statements which included the defendant owner and his service technician. Attorney Peter Rotatori, Jr. of Goshen, Connecticut performed important field investigation work. This wheel hub failure automobile negligence case was successfully resolved with the defendant's automobile liability insurance carrier after discovery. The automobile liability insurance carrier management conceded liability when the case was negotiated for a full and final resolution. The moral of this story is that being a prudent driver and automobile owner requires that you both follow your car's service manual and have your automobile inspected regularly for brake, wheel and tire safety. This case represented personal injuries and damages to a Connecticut plaintiff that could have easily been avoided by this negligent defendant.
Regards, Peter Rotatori, III