Insight

Unlocking an Auto Product Safety Mystery

After a rear-end collision left their two young children with severe head injuries, the Reavis family had many questions and no one to turn to for help.

Frank L. Branson Toyota Payout
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

June 12, 2019 11:59 AM

The path to unlocking the mystery began with a call to The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson, a firm known for courtroom prowess, as well as specific expertise in the kind of painstaking multidisciplinary investigations that such cases demand. During the course of his career, firm founder Frank L. Branson has been involved in some of the most important product defect lawsuits in the nation, including landmark litigation involving: the recall of millions of Firestone tires; rollovers of SUV’s including the Jeep CJ series, the Ford Explorer, the Nissan Pathfinder, and others; and issues including roof strength, seat belt design and performance, and most recently, car seat design, testing, and performance.

For Mr. Branson, the Reavis family’s case spoke to his belief in the law and his motivation for opening his trial-focused firm more than three decades ago. “We do this work for one reason,” he says. “Lawyers have a unique ability to help when no one else can and to make the country a safer place. There are many rewards when we do our work the right way, but helping people who have no other hope is what makes me excited to come to work every day.” The Branson team mounted an exhaustive investigation of the seats and safety components in Toyota’s Lexus ES 300 and of Toyota’s knowledge of the dangerousness of the seats. Stonewalled by an army of defense lawyers, Branson’s firm won an important ruling that compelled Toyota to make a corporate representative available to provide testimony regarding the structure, content,– and location of the corporation’s intricate electronic record-keeping systems so that the firm could make every effort to obtain all of the relevant information held by the automaker. Branson also retained experts and had them acquire a “test buck,” equivalent to the vehicle involved in the crash to perform a rigorous series of tests under the same conditions as the crash. Branson had his experts monitor child-sized
crash dummies were used to measure how a crash of this nature would affect children in the back seats. The eye-opening results revealed how the seatbacks were prone to collapse backward upon rear impact, placing backseat occupants in danger of serious injury.

We’re choosy about the cases we accept, and we take each one with the full intention of trying it to a jury.

Jurors in the trial took special note of Branson’s powerful demonstrative evidence. The record verdict of $242 million included $144 million in exemplary damages meant to punish the automaker for failing to fix the design defect or warn the public. It was the No. 3 product defect verdict in the U.S. in 2018, according to VerdictSearch. As a result, Mr. Branson and his trial team received the Product Liability Trial Team of the Year award from the National Trial Lawyers, and Mr. Branson was honored as one of the 50 Most Influential Lawyers in America .

Record verdicts and settlements are nothing new for the Branson firm. There was the catastrophic failure of a thrill ride at the State Fair of Texas and the crash of American Airlines Flight 1420 in Little Rock. Branson represented a Dallas Cowboys Special Teams coach and scout when their backs were broken in the collapse of a Cowboys practice facility. In a lawsuit involving serious injuries involving a collegiate soccer standout, a federal jury ruled for the first time that the Mitsubishi Montero Sport SUV was unsafe, and a Tucson Arizona jury made the same finding as to the Nissan Pathfinder. Mr. Branson’s cross-examination of auto industry executives in the Ford/Firestone litigation has been described as a textbook example of how to prosecute such claims. In addition, Mr. Branson and his firm have secured nationally recognized verdicts and settlements against negligent trucking companies and charter bus operations, airlines, and energy companies, and their work has resulted in commitments from companies to improve the safety of their products and services.

“We’re choosy about the cases we accept, and we take each one with an eye toward trial,” says Mr. Branson. “Opposing counsel quickly understand that we’re serious. I’ve found that that approach really enhances our recovery for clients, whether it’s at trial or at the settlement table.”

At the core of this firm’s work is a conviction that lawyers can make a difference in their clients’ lives through tenacity, experience, and devotion to their cases.

Related Articles

Catastrophic Personal Injury


by Best Lawyers

Trial legend Frank Branson finds success mixing technology and new skills with vast courtroom experience.

Catastrophic Personal Injury

Unwavering Dedication to Clients


by Best Lawyers

Trial attorneys Michael Lyons and Chris Simmons find motivation when the result means everything.

Trial Attorneys at Lyons & Simmons

Dan Sciano Renaissance Lawyer


by Justin Smulison

Tinsman & Sciano recently celebrated 50 years as greater San Antonio’s leading trial law firm for civil litigation and personal injury. Daniel J.T. Sciano obtained judgments for his clients in both Federal and State courthouses in 2021. A trial lawyer with many talents and diverse knowledge of the law.

Tinsman & Sciano Celebrates 50

Engineered for Success


by Justin Smulison

Koskoff’s product-liability leader, Bill Bloss, explains how his group combines legal knowledge with engineering insight for the benefit of their clients—and future consumers as well

Bill Bloss Best Lawyers 2020

A Cohesive Team


by Best Lawyers

How Bentley & More LLP Combined Forces

A Cohesive Team

A Warrior for Clients


by Best Lawyers

Michael P. Lyons stands up.

Lyons Roaring Through Complex Disputes

Texas' Best Lawyers 2022


by Best Lawyers

Our Texas' Best Lawyers 2022 publication features top-ranked legal talent in Texas.

Texas' Best Lawyers 2022

We Are Women, We Are Fearless


by Deborah S. Chang and Justin Smulison

Athea Trial Lawyers is a female owned and operated law firm specializing in civil litigation, catastrophic energy, wrongful death and product liability.

Athea Trial Law Female Leadership and Success

Aim High and Fly


by Khalil Abdullah

From a silent victim of hometown segregation to Air Force captain and lawyer of consummate skill, Karen Evans exemplifies leadership—and vows always to help those who seek to follow her path.

Karen Evans' Leadership in the Airforce

Kelley|Uustal: A Firm Like No Other


by Kelley|Uustal

Florida firm Kelley|Uustal navigates the importance of client representation and the hard-fought personal injury battles that the firm has taken on over the years.

Catastrophic Injury and Wrongful Death Firm

Courtroom Mastery


by Justin Smulison

Victor H. Pribanic recalled the excitement of returning to the courtroom in late 2021 for a medical negligence case that could help set a new course for Pribanic & Pribanic’s trial advocacy.

Victor H. Pribanic Makes Return to Courtroom

Success and Leadership by All Measures


by Justin Smulison

Lubin & Meyer Continues to Secure Medical Malpractice and Injury Results That Protect Victims and Inspire Change

Lubin & Meyer Continue to Secure Legal Result

New England's Best Lawyers 2022


by Best Lawyers

Our New England's Best Lawyers 2022 publication features top-ranked legal talent in New England.

New England's Best Lawyers 2022

Mind Matters: The Importance of Diagnosing TBIs in PI Cases


by Bobby Saadian

Many lawyers fail to identify and diagnose traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in personal injury disputes. But it can be critical to your case—and render any potential settlement or award far more advantageous for your client.

Representing Traumatic Brain Injury Clients

Crash Course


by Paige Cerulli

A bad car accident left me reeling, but my worst symptoms wouldn’t appear until two weeks after. If it weren’t for excellent legal representation, there’s no way I’d have made it through—or with anything close to the settlement I got.

Overlooked by EMTs After Car Crash

What Will a Car Accident Lawyer Actually Do for You?


by Jacob Oresky

A car accident lawyer provides many services while working on your injury case. Learn about the process for injury claims and the lawyer’s role in the process.

Car Accident Lawyer Services

Trending Articles

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom


by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Belgium™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Belgium.

Black, yellow and red stripes

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France

We Are Women, We Are Fearless


by Deborah S. Chang and Justin Smulison

Athea Trial Lawyers is a female owned and operated law firm specializing in civil litigation, catastrophic energy, wrongful death and product liability.

Athea Trial Law Female Leadership and Success

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

What If Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Had a Premarital Agreement?


by John M. Goralka

Oh, the gritty details we’re learning from the latest court battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. This unfortunate airing of dirty laundry may have been avoided with a prenup. Should you think about getting one yourself?

What If Johnny Depp & Amber Heard Had Prenup?

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany

U.K. Introduces Revisions to Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules


by Gregory Sirico

Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules in

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom


by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?

Destiny Fulfilled


by Sara Collin

Was Angela Reddock-Wright destined to become a lawyer? It sure seems that way. Yet her path was circuitous. This accomplished employment attorney, turned mediator, arbitrator and ADR specialist nonpareil discusses her career, the role of attorneys in society, the new world of post-pandemic work and why new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson represents the future.

Interview with Lawyer Angela Reddock-Wright