A Dealer Can Be Held Strictly Liable for Auto Defect Even If Not the Seller, Says Appeals Court

The California Court of Appeals has ruled that auto dealerships that deliver and inspect new vehicles for automakers can be held strictly liable for any defect even if they did not sell the faulty car or were negligent in any way. The decision reinstates the portion of an auto products liability lawsuit against Todey Motor Co. in Oxnard that was filed by plaintiff Fernando Ibarra.

Ibarra was paralyzed in a rollover accident in 2008 while riding in his employer’s pickup truck, a 2000 Chevrolet C3500.Their truck struck another vehicle while on a highway. Ibarra, who was driving the pickup, lost control, and the truck went rolling into an embankment. Three passengers who were riding in the vehicle suffered minor injuries.

It was General Motors that directly sold the new vehicle to a federal agency via a national account. Todey was paid $74.56 to conduct a pre-delivery inspection and then deliver the pickup. Todey also serviced the truck at least a couple of times for the agency, which had sold the Chevy at auction to Ibarra’s employer.

Ibarra and his wife sued Todey for auto products liability damages. They did not sue General Motors because of its bankruptcy problems.

Todey, however, doesn’t believe it should be liable. The dealer has pointed out that it did not financially profit from selling the truck, played no part in getting the pickup to market, and had no great influence over its distribution or manufacture.

A lower court dismissed the auto defects case against Todey. Now, however, the appeals court says the claims can be reinstated.

Writing for the panel, Justice Steven Perren said that the inspection of delivery of the vehicle by Todey made the dealer part of the distribution chain for “purposes of imposing strict liability” for auto defects. He said that chain only ends when the product arrives at the consumer. He also noted that Todey had an ongoing relationship with GM and could have placed pressure on the auto dealer to make its cars safer.

In the wake of this latest ruling, Ibarra can go ahead with his strict liability claim and his wife can also move forward with her claim seeking damages for loss of consortium.

Auto Products Liability

With strict products liability law, which many states have adopted, a plaintiff does not have to demonstrate that the supplier or manufacturer of a defective auto or faulty car part acted in a careless way to cause the defect to happen. He/she just needs to show that the auto part or the vehicle itself was defective and this was the cause of personal injury or wrongful death.

You want to work with an auto defects law firm that knows how to prove liability and get you the financial damages you are owed. Vehicle malfunctions and defects can lead to catastrophic consequences. Contact The Gilbert Law Group today. We represent clients throughout the nation.


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