A federal appeals court has refused to reinstate a suit alleging defects in a 1994 Mitsubishi Galant, finding insufficient expert evidence to justify a trial.
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the dismissal of a suit by the estate of David McPhail against the manufacturer, distributor and lessor of the car.
McPhail died in a 1994 single-vehicle high-speed rollover accident. He was alone in the car.
The suit alleged design defects in the passenger compartment, headlights, steering, right rear suspension system, brakes and driver airbag.
Kristie Stokes Hassett, a lawyer for Mitsubishi in Washington, said, 'The defendants contended that the accident and McPhail's death resulted solely from excessive speed, alcohol and driver error.'
A trial-level judge in Mobile, Ala., had thrown out all claims against Mitsubishi Motor Manufac-turing of America Inc., Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc. and Value-Rent-A-Car Inc. after excluding a late report by one of the estate's expert witnesses.
The appeals court affirmed that decision, saying the estate 'failed to establish the existence of design defects - by failing to allege a safer, practical, alternative design - or that the alleged defects were the cause of McPhail's accident or his fatal injuries.'
The court also said the expert's report was properly excluded because it was filed too late and was not in a proper form for use as evidence.
Without that report, it continued, reasonable jurors could not conclude the Galant was defective.
The estate's lawyer, William Saliba of Mobile, has asked the full appeals court for a hearing.