Ruptured Fuel Tank Sparks Lawsuit

The plaintiff, Miranda Courtney and her mother filled suit against the Defendant Nissan Motor Company, Nissan North America Inc. and Palmetto Nissan. Miranda, who was 9 years old at the time of the incident, and her family was traveling from Florence, South Carolina in a 2000 Nissan Xterra on February 7, 2007 when they were struck on the right side by a 2006 GMC pickup truck. The Xterra burst into flames immediately on impact. The fire was caused by gasoline that escaped from the fuel tank after a body mount bracket was pushed into the tank on impact. Miss Courtney was sitting in the right side passenger back seat when the collision occurred. She suffered burns over 15% to 20% of her body, including the right side of her face.

Miranda and her mother alleged that the body mount bracket had a sharp edge that presented a risk of puncture in its location just two and a half inches outside of the gas tank. They also argued that Nissan’s crash tests demonstrated the bracket would move inward and posed a puncture threat in a side impact crash.

The plaintiffs presented internal Nissan documents that reportedly demonstrated that sharp objects needed to be at least 100 millimeters away from the gas tank on vehicles that were sold in Europe or need to be equipped with a guard to protect the tank. The Plaintiffs noted that the bracket on the vehicle that Courtney was riding in was less than 100 millimeters from the tank and asserted that the tank would not have been punctured if the bracket were located at the specific distance.

The defendants contended that the Courtney’s Xterra was properly designed and that the tank rupture was due to the severe and unique circumstances of the collision, which placed a large amount of concentrated energy at the location of the bracket.

Miranda’s alleged injuries were the burns on her body and face. She claimed approximately $200,000 in past medical bill and an estimated $300,000 in future medical expenses, which will include scar revision surgery.

The jury deliberated for three and a half hours and returned a verdict of $2,375,000.

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