Crash trials often turn on competing accident reconstruction evidence. And one of the most effective techniques to undercut an opposing party’s reconstruction evidence is to show how it lacks support from the crash scene itself. In closings at trial over whether defective airbags led to a fatal car crash, Francis McDonald contrasted plaintiff’s reconstruction evidence with police findings to clear Ford Motor Company.
Anthony Llera, 20, was killed when the Ford Mustang he was driving struck a tree and flipped on a South Florida roadway. The crash also killed one passenger and injured two others.
Llera’s family contended defective airbags in the car deployed improperly during relatively minor contact as the car fishtailed, causing him to veer out of control and strike the tree. Ford argued Llera’s reckless driving while drunk caused the crash, and the car's airbags deployed properly after a more forceful collision.
Key to the 2017 trial was the car’s path and collision itself, with both sides offering competing conclusions from accident reconstruction experts.
In closings, McDonald, of McDonald Toole Wiggins, argued the plaintiff’s expert’s conclusions were not supported by police findings. “Apparently he has taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs at that accident scene, and not one of those photographs will you find evidence of tire marks coming from that northwest island, any evidence of tire marks coming off that island, any evidence of tire marks coming from the island leading to the curb of the median where we know the Mustang struck,” McDonald said.
Without solid physical evidence found by police, McDonald said the plaintiff’s expert was forced to fill in the blanks with a simulation. “He said that he couldn’t find anything that would match up the way police drew the path of the Mustang as it came off [Interstate] 95 to the curb, and he had to use a simulation to come up with a version of what he thinks were the facts,” McDonald said. “I would suggest to you that if there were marks of the significance and depth that [plaintiff's expert] came up with in his animation… the police would have seen those marks the next day when they were out at the scene….”
Without that support of police findings, McDonald argued, the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction animation simply wasn't credible. “That’s one of the types of evidence that i believe is not worthy of your oath as jurors when deciding what the true facts and the true evidence is.”
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not a subscriber?