Expert Witness Required to Prove Defect in Airbag that Failed to Deploy, According to Appellate Court of Connecticut: Koutsoukos v. Toyota Motor Sales

111989_2445.jpgThe Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the dismissal of a products liability lawsuit, Koutsoukos v. Toyota Motor Sales, because the plaintiff did not present expert testimony regarding the allegedly defective product. The alleged defect involved the front driver’s side airbag of a vehicle that failed to deploy during an accident, resulting in the death of the plaintiff’s daughter, who was driving the vehicle. The plaintiff, acting as executor for his daughter’s estate, argued that the product defect was obvious to an ordinary consumer and that expert testimony was therefore unnecessary. The court disagreed, finding that the type of defect alleged by the plaintiff required supporting expert testimony.

Melissa Koutsoukos was killed in a single-car accident on April 9, 2006, when her 2006 Toyota Scion tC went off the road on Merritt Parkway in Trumbull, Connecticut. According to a reconstruction of the accident by a mechanical engineer retained by the defendants, as the vehicle went onto an exit ramp, it went off the road to the left, then went back onto the road and went into a clockwise spin. When the car went off the road on the right side, it had spun nearly 180 degrees and was traveling backwards. The rear left side of the vehicle struck a boulder, causing it to continue to spin clockwise. The front of the vehicle struck a lamp post, and it came to rest in the highway’s breakdown lane. The driver was reportedly not wearing a seatbelt, and the driver’s side airbag did not deploy. She was thrown from the vehicle and suffered fatal injuries.

The driver’s father, Dimitrios Koutsoukos, filed suit against Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., the vehicle’s manufacturer, and Crabtree Motors, Inc., the vehicle’s retailer, on April 9, 2008. The lawsuit alleged, pursuant to the Connecticut Product Liability Act, Connecticut General Statutes § 52-572m et seq., that the defendants were liable for Melissa Koutsoukos’ death because of a defect in the airbag. The suit only alleged that the airbag’s failure to deploy caused her death, not that it caused the accident itself.