The past year has been marked by an unusually high number of fatal or serious
injury accidents involving vehicles that have been converted into multi-passenger
“stretch” limousines and/or party buses. In this article,
the defective product and personal injury lawyers at
The Doan Law Firm will explain
how the law defines a defective product and then looks at how defective product
law could be applied to Injuries occurring in “stretched” vehicles.
What is a “defective product?”
In American civil law any product, from a child’s toy to a prescription
medication, is considered to be defective if it
causes or contributes to an injury while being used for its intended purpose. A product’s
“intended purpose” is usually obvious, as in the “intended
purpose” of a toy is to amuse a child or the “intended purpose”
of a medicine is to treat an illness. There are, however, times when a
product may result in harm to its user. If it can be shown that the product
was a factor in the user’s injury and that the product’s manufacturer
knew, or should have known, that its product was capable of causing that
injury, a court may find the manufacturer liable for damages.
In order to file a defective product lawsuit, you must be able to show
that at least one of the following criteria played a role in causing the
accident that led to your injury:
The fundamental premise of defective or dangerous product liability is
that if a product causes an injury,
and if it can be demonstrated that the defect was due to some “breakdown”
or “anomaly” in the product’s standard manufacturing
process, the manufacturer may be held liable for damages. In many cases,
manufacturing defects are isolated events that affect single (or only
a few) vehicles. This generalization does not, however, always apply to
“stretched” limousines and similar vehicles.
Recall that “stretch” vehicles are modified
after they leave the factory and, with only a few exceptions, are essentially
“normal-sized” vehicles that are cut in half so that an “extension”
can be inserted to increase the number of passengers that can be transported
in a single trip. Since such modifications take place at third-party conversion
shops, in a legal sense these shops assume the role of manufacturer and
may be held liable for damages following an accident.
Unlike a manufacturing defect, a defective design is likely to affect all
products that used a particular design “blueprint” or manufacturing
process. As an example of defective design, consider the case of the
Ford Pinto in the 1970s.
Almost from the time the Pinto entered the market, the Ford Motor Company
was the target of lawsuits alleging that the company knew that the design
and location of the its fuel
could cause the vehicle to catch fire if it was “rear-ended” by another vehicle, but had allowed
manufacturing to continue because it would be much cheaper for Ford to
pay damages after the occasional lawsuit than to redesign both the Pinto
and its assembly lines. The resulting negative publicity essentially killed
Pinto sales, causing Ford to discontinue the model in 1980.
Failure to warn
Failure to warn is commonly seen in lawsuits involving prescription drugs
and, although less often, when products are used in an “unusual”
manner. In the case of “stretched” vehicles, a failure by
the vehicle’s owner or employees to warn passengers of safety concerns
could lead to a personal injury lawsuit following an accident.
With these definitions in mind, let’s turn to who may be held liable
for damages when a “stretch limousine” is involved in an accident.
Liability and “stretch” vehicles
First of all, for the purpose of this article we will define a “stretch
limousine” to be any vehicle whose body and chassis has been modified
to accommodate at least 8 seated passengers
and is driven by a professional driver who holds the appropriate license and/or
endorsements to legally operate that type of vehicle.
As mentioned above, there are three circumstances that can result in manufacturer’s
liability following a “stretch limo” accident:
In the conversion process, a vehicle often gains several tons in curb weight.
If the conversion shop does not replace, at a minimum the vehicle’s
suspension, brakes, and drive train with heavy duty systems, the vehicle
may become unstable even under the best of operating conditions.
When a vehicle is modified, many of its original safety features (e.g.
front and side air bags) are either removed or rendered inoperative. If
this is indeed the case, and an accident occurs, the conversion shop may
be held liable for damages.
Failure to warn
It is the responsibility of the conversion shop to notify the vehicle’s
owner of both known and potential safety issues. If the conversion shop
fails to provide such information or allows an unsafe vehicle to be delivered
to its owner, the shop may be found liable for damages following an accident.
Contacting a “stretch limo” accident injury lawyer
The question of manufacturer’s liability following a “stretch”
vehicle accident is much more than academic, since many “stretch”
vehicle rental companies have been found to be either under-insured or
to have operated without the minimum liability insurance coverage required
by state and federal law. If you are injured in an accident while a passenger
in an uninsured “stretch” vehicle, the manufacturer may be
your only hope of receiving compensation for your losses.
If you, or a family member, suffered an injury while you were a passenger
in a “stretched” vehicle, we invite you to contact the ‘stretch
limo” accident injury lawyer at
The Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice with offices in major cities
across the country, to
arrange a review of the facts in your case and a discussion of the legal options that may
contact our firm, your initial consultation and case review are always free and do not
create an obligation to hiring us as your legal counsel. Should you decide
that you would like for us to represent you in court, we are usually willing
to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for
trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement
that we will win for you.