Winning a Defense Verdict for U-Haul in a $130 Million Personal Injury Case
Our Client's Challenge
When a pickup truck pulling a 4x4 vehicle with a tow dolly rented from U-Haul left the highway and rolled over, the company faced a $130 million personal injury lawsuit. The plaintiff, a passenger who was ejected during the accident, sustained a spinal injury that resulted in permanent paralysis. He claimed U-Haul was responsible because it rented the tow dolly, which did not have independent brakes.
U-Haul turned to Lightfoot, its national litigation counsel for many years, to mount a powerful defense. When the high-stakes Wing v. U-Haul case was tried before a jury in the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County in 2018, the first challenge facing Lightfoot’s defense team was to overcome the judge’s pre-trial ruling that the tow dolly violated an Arizona law requiring any vehicle trailer weighing more than 3,000 pounds to be equipped with independent brakes. In addition, the plaintiff, a single father of a 10-year-old boy, was sympathetic and compelling witness.
When the trial began, the defense argued the court’s finding was the first such decision in the statute’s 40-year history, and that tow dollies were not generally classified as trailers in the rental truck industry.
Lightfoot lawyers then presented the jury with compelling evidence that other factors caused the tragic accident. They began by describing how the pickup’s driver had been traveling at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour and used the emergency shoulder to pass another vehicle prior to losing control of his vehicle. They also noted the passenger’s failure to wear a seatbelt resulted in his ejection from the pickup during the rollover. Multiple warnings not to exceed 55 mph – both in U-Haul’s rental documents and on stickers placed on the frame of the tow dolly that were easily visible from the pickup’s side-view mirrors – were offered to the jury as evidence of U-Haul’s safety precautions.
Following weeks of testimony and two days of deliberation, the jury accepted the strong evidence that excessive speed – not the U-Haul tow dolly – caused the rollover, and that the plaintiff would not have been severely injured had he been wearing a seatbelt. As a result, the jury found for U-Haul on all claims.
The victory was cited by Courtroom View Network (CVN) as one of its “Top 10 Most Impressive Defense Verdicts of 2018.” In ranking Wing v. U-Haul in second place on its list, CVN commended Lightfoot for “taking on a plaintiff represented by a firm with a national reputation for both its plaintiff and defense work.”