Matthew Biedka, Motorcycle and Automotive Expert
Case Summary: Plaintiffs, an elderly husband and wife, visited a dealership to purchase a new car. After speaking with a salesperson and selecting the car they were interested in, the couple went on a test drive with the husband driving the car. Upon arriving back at the dealership, Plaintiff parked the car and proceeded to unbuckle before exiting the vehicle.
Plaintiff’s deposition stated that, as he attempted to exit the vehicle, something held up his left foot, tripping him. Plaintiff fell shoulder-first onto the pavement. His shoulder was injured, requiring extensive surgery and rehabilitation. As this happened the wife saw an object, which she described as a ball of something clear and sticky, fall out of the car after her husband. She also stated that the salesperson then picked up this object and disposed of it quickly.
Expert Analysis: After reading the deposition transcripts, it was determined further investigation would be required to better evaluate the incident from a cause-and-effect approach. Based on experience with automotive dealerships, it was suspected that the clear sticky ball described by Plaintiff’s wife was actually a piece of adhesive vinyl protective covering that had been left in the car.
To test this theory, the Defendant dealership was visited and an exemplar vehicle matching the incident vehicle was inspected. The inspection included removal of all pieces of protective vinyl that covered the vehicle’s interior and exterior. The vinyl pieces were then formed into balls and labeled alphabetically, with a corresponding chart that detailed the exact area of the vehicle from which each sample was removed.
Each vinyl sample was displayed for observation with the labels detailing the location concealed from view in order to have Plaintiff’s wife indicate if any resembled the object noted from the day of the incident. In addition, Plaintiff, who had ultimately proceeded with the purchase of the same year, make, and model vehicle from the test drive, was asked to enter and exit the car’s driver seat several times, as a video recording captured his movements.
Summary of Findings: When asked if any of the vinyl samples resembled the object seen flying out of the car at the time of her husband’s fall, Plaintiff’s wife consistently picked out the same ball every time, even after they were mixed and randomized. Throughout this experiment, it was noted that the sample which was repeatedly selected had been removed from the front driver’s side carpet of the new car.
The manufacturer’s vehicle preparation instructions require the adhesive vinyl coverings to be removed prior to test driving. The material is to then be discarded by the dealership, not left in the car or shoved under the driver’s seat, as had occurred in this case.
After observing Plaintiff’s movements at the beginning of their meeting and reviewing the video of Plaintiff entering and exiting his vehicle, it was observed that Plaintiff had a consistent habit of folding his left leg and foot under his seat in both settings. It was concluded Plaintiff’s foot most likely met the sticky clear ball under the seat and the remaining adhesive attached to his shoe.
Due to Plaintiff’s advanced age and slower reflexes, the crumpled piece of vinyl covering was enough to trip or slow the man as he exited the vehicle, cause his fall in the parking lot. Expert analysis concluded that the driver-side front carpet’s protective covering had been balled up and shoved under the driver’s seat, most likely by the prep crew hurrying to get the car ready to drive that day.Categories: Automotive | Matthew Biedka | Motorcycle, Automotive, and Dealership Operations Expert