Rollback Wrecker Lacked Underride

Protection, Three Killed

By: James Brennan


Design Defect- Wrongful Death

Rollback Wrecker Lacked Underride

Protection, Three Killed

Settlement Confidential

Case Rosalyn Oliver, individually as

Administrator for the estates of lieutenant

Oliver, Sr. and Lieutenant Oliver, Jr.;

Patricia Bass, for her son Winfred Bass; and

Stephanie Pruitt, as administrator of the

Estate of Mary Pruitt v. Nissan Diesel

America, Antac and W&M Truck Clinic,

No. CV-03-35

Court Lowndes County Circuit Court, AL

Judge Edward H. McFerrin

Date 12/10/2004


Attorney(s) Greg Allen, Beasley, Allen, Crow

Methvin, Portis & Miles, Montgomery, AL

James D. Brandyburg, Beasley, Allen, Crow

Methvin, Portis & Miles, Mobile, AL

Elizabeth Smithart, Beasley, Allen, Crow,

Methvin, Portis & Miles, Montgomery, AL


Attorney(s) Thomas Coleman, Smith Spires & Peddy,

Birmingham, AL (W&M Truck Clinic)

Craig Hamilton, McDowell Knight

Roedder & Sledge, Mobile, AL (Nissan

Diesel America, Nissan Diesel Motor

Company of Japan)

Richard Hartley, Hartley & Hickman,

Greenville, AL (Nissan Diesel America

Nissan Diesel Motor Company of Japan)

Don Jones, Montgomery, AL (Aatac)

Michael D. Knight, McDowell Knight

Roedder & Sledge, Mobile, AL (Nissan

Diesel America, Nissan Diesal Motor

Company of Japan)

Wayne B. Mason, Sedgwich, Detert,

Moran & Arnold, Nissan Diesel Motor

Company of Japan)

William C. Roedder, McDowell Knight

Roedder & Sledge, Mobile, AL (Nissan

Diesel America, Nissan Diesel Motor

Company Japan)

Thomas S. Spires, Smith Spires & Peddy,

Birmingham, AL (W&M Truck Clinic)

Facts & Allegations On Jan. 4 2001, plaintiff’s decedent Lieutenant Oliver Sr., a 54-year-old disabled veteran, was driving a Cadillac escalade north on I-65 near Letohatchee, Ala. His wife, plaintiff Rosalyn, a 44-year-old school teacher, was sitting in the passenger seat. Rosalyn’s mother, plaintiff’s decedent Mary Pruitt, sat behind the driver’s seat. Plaintiff Winfred Bass, Rosalyn’s 31-year-old nephew, sat behind the passenger seat, and the Oliver’s 26-year-old son, plaintiff’s decedent Lieutenant Oliver Jr., sat behind Mary Pruitt.

Approximately two miles north of the Letohatchee exit, a ford ranger pickup truck was stalled in the highway median. A Nissan TX UD-1800 rollback wreck owner by Randy’s Wrecker Co. was parked on the shoulder of the highway, attempting the winch the Ford out of the median. The angle at which the wrecker was parked, however, allowed the sharp edge of the wrecker’s rollback to jut approximately 30 inches into the left lane to travel. Although the rollback had its lights on, it had no reflective strips, and the road just had just begun to get dark.

Oliver’s car continued along the highway in the left lane travelling at the posted speed limit. He briefly looked to the right lane to see right lane was clear. When he looked ahead he saw the edge of the rollback approaching rapidly. He attempted to make a hard right to avoid a crash, but the edge of the rollback sliced through the A, B, and C pillars of the Cadillac. All three passengers on the driver’s side of the car were killed, and Rasalyn Oliver and Winfred Bass were injured.

Rosalyn Oliver, individually and as administrator for the estates of her husband and son; Patricia Bass, for her son Winfred who has Down’s Syndrome; and Stephanie Pruitt, as administrator of the estate of Mary Pruitt, sued Nissan Diesel Motor Company of Japan; Nissan Diesel America, Dallas; Astac, Charlotte, N.C.; and W&M Truck Clinic, Charlotte, N.C., under products liability theory.

The plaintiff’s claim that Nissan, which manufactured the chassis cab; W&M, which sold the cab; and Aatac, which attached the rollback to the chassis, should have equipped the wrecker with the underride protection, such as a steel guard on the back of the truck that would have made initial contact with the plaintiff’s bumper. They claimed that, had the truck been equipped with such a guard, the Oliver vehicle would have rotated away from the rollback. They claimed that, while such guards are not required in the United States, they are required in Nissan’s home country, Japan, and the trucks are shipped with temporary guards.

The plaintiffs also claimed that Nissan, W&M and Aatac should have put reflective tape on the rollback. They claimed that if Lieutenant Oliver had an additional tenth of a second to react, he would avoid the rollback entirely.

Nissan argued that it sold an incomplete vehicle, and it did not know what would be placed on the vehicle after it was sold. All of the defendants pointed out that the underride guards are not required under federal law, and claimed that they would have been insufficient to prevent this accident.

INJURIES/DAMAGES death; fracture, neck

Rosalyn Oliver lost three generations of her family in the accident, as her mother, husband and son were killed. She also suffered a fractured neck in the crash, although she was not paralyzed. She does still experience some residual problems, including numbness in her left arm.

Under Alabama law, the plaintiff did not have to quantify its claimed damages.

The defendant made no argument as to damages.

RESULT The parties agreed to settle their claims, the terms of the settlement were confidential.

EXPERT(S) None reported.

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