A lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County last week resulted in a verdict against Nissan of America and its brake manufacturer, Continental Auto Systems, for $25 million for faulty brakes. Plaintiffs claimed that Nissan and Continental knew of the issues and did not let customers know or issue a recall, in order to avoid bad press. Because of this, Plaintiff Solomon Mathenge slammed into a minivan in his 2004 Nissan Infiniti QX56, killing a mother and her two daughters.
The lawsuit alleged that the brakes failed when the delta stroke sensor stopped working in the vehicle due to a software error. Attorneys argued that Nissan knew of this fault as early as 2003 but made no effort to correct it or disclose it. They further argued that the same software failure can be seen in their Titan and Armada models, too. The public was first alerted to this deadly blunder in the class-action case Banks v. Nissan, where Defendants were ordered to pay $800 to each buyer of the aforementioned models. Mathenge did not know of this payout, and by association, the sensor failure, because he bought his car used in 2012.
Mathenge was originally the target of the lawsuit. He was driving with a suspended license at the time, and his ability to drive was brought into question due to the fact he was 74-years-old. Police charged him with vehicular manslaughter at the crash scene. Hilario Cruz, the father of the daughters involved in the crash, and Araceli Mendez, Cruz’s surviving child, charged Mathenge with a wrongful death lawsuit. However, they dismissed the charges against him when it was revealed that his car was affected by the same software error as in the class-action suit above. Mathenge, who was injured himself, joined Cruz and Mendez in their lawsuit against Nissan. The judge found that, although Mathenge was negligent in his driving practices, Nissan and Continental were completely responsible for his accident.
Due to the minimal public information available for this potentially deadly defect, many purchases of these vehicles to this day may have no idea of the danger.
For more information, read the complaint [HERE].