Automotive Product Liability Litigation

Overview

Dykema has more than 95 years of experience providing legal services to the automotive industry. As a nationwide leader in automotive product liability and product recall litigation, we understand the complex competing considerations involved in product design and development, testing, integration, and manufacturing, and we know how to win cases by explaining difficult scientific principles to judges and juries. We have defended thousands of product liability claims for a wide range of automotive products, systems and components including wheels, tires, brakes, suspension systems, airbags, seat belts, fuel systems, vehicle control and stability systems, roof structures, window glass, transmissions, seats, seat heaters, electrical switches and systems, and an entire spectrum of crashworthiness claims. We defend and try personal injury, wrongful death cases, property damage claims, and product recall and related product defect litigation—including class actions—across the country.

Ranked among the top four firms nationwide in automotive product liability, mass tort and class actions and the top nine firms nationwide in transportation litigation by The Legal 500 US 2018, Dykema's team provides high quality and high value litigation, trial and appellate, and counseling services to the worldwide automotive industry, including automakers, automotive products manufacturers and Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers. We also help our clients avoid potential litigation with proactive product development counsel and advice.

Our product liability lawyers represent clients in courts across the country in a wide range of complex, high-profile cases involving high-stakes product liability, class action, and toxic tort claims. In addition to successfully defending at trial claims brought in some of the most challenging venues, Dykema is nationally acknowledged as a leader in case management and discovery counsel services. We take an active role in early case assessment and determine the correct data sources and parameters for data review (e.g., timeframe, custodians, keywords, use of artificial intelligence filtration, and others). Such careful control and attention at the outset pays dividends in efficiencies through the end of the discovery process. 

Our defenses of even the toughest bet-the-company product liability lawsuits are predicated on our intimate knowledge of the technical features of our clients’ products, automotive design and development procedures, governmental and industry standards and practices, access to expert witnesses, and by our ability to quickly identify the key issues surrounding each claim. The result is a sustained record of bringing even the most challenging automotive-related product liability lawsuits to verdict in some of the nation’s toughest jurisdictions.

Experience Matters

  • Alexander v. Kia Motors America, Inc. After unsuccessfully contesting class certification with prior defense counsel, Kia retained Dykema to conduct merits discovery and try this Orange County, California, state court class action alleging unfair business practices in connection with the design of rear seat belt systems. Dykema obtained a defense verdict.
  • Chrysler v. Hutchinson FTS. Dykema obtained a jury verdict of $47.3 million in Oakland County, Michigan, in favor of an auto manufacturer against a Tier 1 supplier in a supplier warranty cost recovery action.
  • Evangelista v. Key Safety Systems. Dykema obtained a defense verdict after a two-week trial for Key Safety, a global leader in the design, development and manufacturing of automotive safety-critical components and systems. Plaintiff alleged faulty deployment of a front passenger airbag. However, after hearing Key’s evidence, a Bergen County, New Jersey jury rejected plaintiff’s claims and exonerated Key Safety’s technology.
  • Katzkin Leather v. Nissan North America, Inc. Dykema obtained summary judgment and collected costs against an after-market leather supplier and several auto dealers on claims that an auto manufacturer engaged in unfair trade practices and interfered with contractual relations by advising dealers it was unsafe to install after-market interior leather trim on front seats in vehicles equipped with advanced airbag technology.
  • Kline v. General Motors. Dykema obtained a defense verdict in St. Louis City, Missouri, after a four-week trial of allegations that a fuel system design defect caused a post-collision fire and burn death of a 16-year-old occupant of a sport utility vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed the decision.

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