Sudden Conflagration of Car Results in Wrongful Death of Texas Woman

Two families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mitsubishi, Smylie Unlimited and Meineke Car Care Centers after a woman burned to death in a car that suddenly went up in flames.

Jessica Fertitta was leaving her grandparent’s home early in the morning and stopped at an intersection about a half block from their home. Suddenly, her car was ablaze. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the young woman’s 2001 Mitsubishi Montero inexplicably malfunctioned, causing a fire that engulfed the vehicle and resulted in her death in February of 2011. The suit seeks damages from the court for the conscious pain and suffering Fertitta experienced prior to her death, for funeral and burial costs, for mental anguish and for the loss of her companionship and society.

On-scene accident investigators suspected that the fire was accidental and that it may have been caused by a mechanical malfunction. The lawsuit asserts that Mitsubishi was responsible for the grossly negligent design and manufacturing of the flawed vehicle. The other two defendants, Smylie and Meinke, were allegedly negligent in inspecting and repairing the car, and were thus in breach of warranty.

The case is founded upon two arguments: that Fertitta’s Montero was somehow defective as a result of shoddy design and manufacturing by Mitsubishi, and that the two car care companies who serviced and inspected the defective vehicle did so negligently and in a manner that resulted in Fertitta’s death. The case will turn upon the existence of such a design flaw (or the lack thereof). It is likely that the case faces a long process before resolution in court.

Such a case involves important technical components. It will concern the inner workings of various automobiles, the way in which multiple parts are serviced and inspected and the factors technicians consider when they service a vehicle. If there is a flaw in the design of the car, a technician may not have been aware of it or may not have seen it while performing maintenance. Should there be a flaw, it may have been unknown to Mitsubishi until some unexplained event, such as this mysterious fire, triggered inquiry. An injury attorney must ensure that all avenues of explanation are probed as he or she seeks justice — and a fair and equitable outcome — for the family.

Posted on: December 31, 2013 | Tagged

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Involving Dimethylamylamine (DMAA or Jack3d) Moves to El Paso, Texas

The wrongful death trial for a 22-year-old solider has been moved from California to Texas, closer to the lab that produces a supplement at the center of a storm of controversy.
The producers and distributors of a non-prescription supplement known as “Jack3d” (also referred to as DMAA or dimethylamylamine) have been implicated in a wrongful death suit.

Michael Sparling was training at Fort Bliss in 2011. He collapsed during a training exercise and died of a cardiac arrest. At the time, he was taking DMAA as part of his personal routine. His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit stating that the USPlabs supplement was the cause of his sudden, unexpected death. The case was transferred to a jurisdiction in which the applicable state law would apply. In this instance, the case has been moved to Texas, even though Sparling started taking the supplement while he was in Sacramento, California. He died in Texas while still consuming the questionable product.

It is expected the defendants will argue that the young soldier’s death was the result of a training exercise or previously unknown or undiagnosed medical condition, or that Sparling died due to his own reckless, careless behavior by taking the supplement negligently and without fully vetting the product.

USPlabs LLC (the producer of the supplement) and GNC Corporations (the distributor of the supplement) are named defendants in the lawsuit, as are both operating officers of the laboratory being sued and Natural Alternatives International Inc. (Natural Alternatives granted their patent rights to another company for the component CarnoSyn (or beta-alanine), which is found in Jack3d). USPlabs has stated that the plaintiff’s contention — that the company negligently ignored the dangers of the supplement outlined in two published studies — does not make sense, since neither study was published until after Sparling’s death (they were released in 2011 and 2012, respectively).

However, if the results of those studies show that the supplement is dangerous, their date of publication will not matter in court. DMAA is rated as a stimulant with links to more than 100 illnesses and at least six deaths. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet concluded whether or not Jack3d contributed to the fatalities, although it has issued a warning that the supplement could dangerously elevate blood pressure and even cause a heart attack.

Prior to this lawsuit, four other servicemen’s deaths have been attributed to the use of Jack3d, at least initially. In all four cases, the supplement was ruled out by a U.S. Army and Department of Defense (DOD) safety review panel. The panel did state, however, that it was of the opinion that some personnel may be predisposed to serious consequences while using this supplement.

So, does this case have a chance at success? Providing that the jury attaches probative value and significance to the studies that indicate it to be dangerous, and to the observations on possible adverse effects made by the DOD, yes: the young soldier’s parents may well succeed in court. Trials like this one are often long and complex affairs, but it is the attorney’s job to meet the challenge and to fight for an equitable verdict.

Holiday Safety Tips

  Today, I received an email from the Dallas District Attorney (I don’t know how I ended up on his mailing list), setting out some holiday safety tips.  They sounded like good tips so I thought I’d pass them on to you.

  • Do not announce publicly on social media that you’re about to go on this big getaway vacation with your family. You never know who’s lurking at the other end of your profile. One minute you’re on a cruise, the next minute a thief will probably break into your home.
  • If you are traveling for an extended period of time during the holidays, advise your neighbor. Advise your relatives. Make sure that someone is keeping a watchful eye on your property.
  • Make your home appear occupied. Attach timers to lights and television sets and set them to turn on and off at different times.
  • When parking your vehicle to go shopping, remember where you parked it! Always park in a well lit and well traveled area. Do not park in a remote dark area.
  • When storing items purchased at the stores, place them out of sight. The best place is in a locked trunk.
  • Don’t resist if someone tries to take any of your belongings. Don’t chase someone who robs you, they may have a weapon. Instead call 911.
  • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year. Keep a diligent eye on fire hazards.
  • Falling to the ground hurt. Falling from a ladder is painful and can even be deadly. When putting up Christmas decorations be sure to have a partner to assist you for event he simplest task.
  • Don’t openly display your Christmas tree and gifts in the front window so it’s easily visible from the street. It’s too tempting for a potential criminal to smash the window and grab the wrapped packages. Or plan a later break-in based on their earlier observation.
  • Burglars know to look for the hidden door key near the front entrance. Don’t hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges. Instead give the spare key to a trusted neighbor.

Follow this advice, and have a happy holiday.

Posted on: December 2, 2013 |

Schuelke Law maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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