Hilliard Startled Court in '96 Toyota Suit | News | HMG LLP

Bob Hilliard Startled Courtroom in 1996 Toyota Camry Liability Lawsuit

August 31, 2017

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By Trudy Baltazar:

Bob Hilliard certainly knows how to deliver a closing argument. Lee Carr of Carr Engineering had been on the stand all morning on this last day of the trial. I missed most of Carr’s testimony due to other commitments, but I was present during Bob’s cross examination of Carr and I heard both closing arguments.

Lee Carr had shown a video during his testimony (he was a witness for the defense (Toyota). Mr. Carrr said his firm had conducted some road tests on their course and they video taped various driver’s reactions to show how people would react when the vehicle they’re driving experiences a stuck throttle. One of the drivers tested was of a 60 yr old female who had supposedly accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brake when the car experienced this intentional stuck throttle. The video showed different screen shots all at once: one of the driver’s hands on the steering wheel, one of the driver’s feet showing what the feet were doing, and one showed a view of the course ahead through the windshield.

When Mr. Carrr played the video, he pointed out (with bullet points on the screen at conclusion) that this woman had been “driving along†on the course when they intentionally opened up the throttle on the vehicle. Mr. Carr said this 60 yr old woman had swerved in a zig-zag motion around some cones, but the main focus was on her feet. Suddenly after the throttle supposedly stuck open, the video showed her pumping the gas pedal (instead of the brake). Well Mr. Hilliard used this evidence against Toyota and Mr. Carr in his closing statement. According to Star Tribune who covered this case, Carr Engineering had been retained for $1.4 million for this trial and Carr Engr had received a total of $34 million from car manufacturers over a period of time. I should mention the $1.4 million included the services/testimony of Karl Stopchinksi as well.

When Mr. Hilliard played the video during his closing argument he pointed out the three bullet points in the summary portion of Carr’s video. #1) Mr. Carr said this woman had been “driving alongâ€. However, Mr. Hilliard pointed out the odometer in the video as we watched the video again. Mr. Hilliard paused the video at the point just prior to the woman pumping the gas pedal – so this would have been just prior to the throttle becoming intentionally stuck open. Well Bob pointed out the odometer showed she was driving 1 mph – yes one mph. Mr. Carr said she had been “driving alongâ€.

2nd bullet point: Mr. Carr said the woman drove in a zig-zag pattern to avoid the cones. As mentioned earlier, one of the screen shots was of the driver’s hands on the steering wheel. Mr. Hilliard asked the jury to watch the driver’s hands ONLY and notice how her hands never move and the steering wheel never moves. In order to move in a zig-zag pattern, you have to turn the steering wheel back and forth some, but it never happened in this video. Her hands remained still and calm and were located on the bottom portion of the steering wheel. Her hands weren’t even in the 10:00 and 2:00 position.

Third bullet point of Mr. Carr’s: she had swerved around some cones. Mr. Hilliard asked us to focus on the screen shot of the course ahead as this woman is supposedly driving. He asked the jury, “do you see any cones anywhere?†There were none that we could see. Was Mr. Carr’s testimony of this video really the truth? Based on what I saw, I would have to say no. Actually, I don’t see how any of Mr. Carr’s testimony can be trusted. By the way, you know how much Mr. Hilliard paid for his two engineers who conducted tests and testified? $55-$65 thousand.

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