A California jury has determined that a defect in Nissan’s Infiniti QX56 SUV breaking system software caused an accident that killed three people in 2012 after Solomon Mathenge crashed his vehicle into a minivan in Hollywood. The impact killed Saida Mendez and her two daughters, Hilda and Stephanie.
The jury found Nissan negligent in not issuing a recall of the vehicle but said they did not act with malice.
Mathenge had initially been charged with manslaughter after the accident but charges were later dropped after a class action settlement was reached by Nissan alleging the breaking software could suddenly fail. An inspection of Mathenge’s vehicle found his Infiniti had the same defect.
Mathenge and family members of the deceased filed lawsuits against Nissan, including the children’s father, Hilario Cruz and a surviving daughter, Araceli Mendez.
Cruz was awarded $14 million for the loss of his daughters and Mendez was awarded $7 million for the loss of her mother with an additional $431,000 intended to cover loss of financial support, household services and gifts she would have received from her mother. Mathenge was awarded $3.5 million.
“The jury worked very hard and got this verdict right. The braking system of these cars is defective and they need to be recalled,” the plaintiff’s lawyer said. “Most importantly, we are pleased that Hilario Cruz and Araceli Mendez received justice for the deaths of Saida, Hilda and Stephanie.”
Lawyers for Nissan argued that Mathenge had been speeding prior to the crash and had actually accelerated right before impact, something that could not have been caused by the defect. “While we are deeply sympathetic to the families affected, Nissan believes the evidence clearly shows that the Infiniti QX56 was not the cause of this unfortunate accident,” read a statement issued by Nissan.
Nissan says they are disappointed by the verdict and may appeal the decision.
Case number BC493949, Cruz V. Nissan North America, et. al., Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County