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.

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