Auto Dealer Cleared in Fatal Minibus Crash

Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County

Shook, Hardy & Bacon secured a victory for L.A. Truck Centers LLC in a two-week trial stemming from a tour-bus crash in which eight were injured and two died. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the auto dealer, saving the company from a potential $58 million wrongful-death payout.

A group from China was touring the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon when their bus driver took a turn too quickly and rolled over. Because the tour bus did not include seat belts, seven of the 10 passengers were flung through the windows. The tourists filed a lawsuit against L.A. Truck Centers, tour group operator TBE International Inc., and the bus manufacturer, alleging that their injuries were more serious than they would have been had the bus been outfitted with seat belts. The bus manufacturer and tour company settled their portions of the case before trial, but L.A. Truck Centers maintained that the tour group operator and its driver were to blame because the company specifically requested a bus without seat belts to save money. Shook attorneys argued that L.A. Truck Centers could not be liable for selling a vehicle requested by the customer that meets the federal government’s safety requirements.

The plaintiff asked the jury to award more than $58 million in damages to the plaintiffs, but the jury refused to do so, returning a defense verdict. Additional coverage of the trial appears in an article from Law360. Courtroom View Network later named the verdict to its "Top 10 Defense Verdicts of 2015."

Chen v. LA Truck Ctrs. LLC, No. BC469935 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cnty. 2015).