Navistar settles crash lawsuit blaming lack of optional safety features

July 15, 2021

Tyson Fisher


A truck leasing company and Navistar have reached a settlement with an injured motorcyclist claiming that the companies are liable for the crash due to the lack of non-mandatory safety features in a truck.

On July 6, a Pennsylvania federal district court closed a case against New Braunfels, Texas-based Rush Truck Centers and Lisle, Ill.-based Navistar filed by John Paul Shimmel’s estate. According to court documents, the parties have reached an undisclosed settlement. Shimmel was severely injured in a crashing involving a Navistar truck sold by Rush Truck Centers.

In the lawsuit, Shimmel argued that Navistar and Rush Truck Centers are liable for the crash. Shimmel is suing the companies for strict liability and product negligence. Specifically, the man claims that a lack of forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems make the manufacturer and lessor negligent. Those safety systems are not required by federal law.

The amended complaint alleges the following factors led to the crash:

  • Truck design not including sufficient manner and means to reduce the likelihood of frontal collisions.
  • Failing to market the truck with a forward collision warning system.
  • Truck lacked “necessary” safety systems, including collision warning and automatic braking systems to alert the driver and slow the truck.
  • Failing to lease the truck with safety systems.
  • Failing to provide “necessary” warnings so that purchasers would be aware of the importance of forward collision warning systems.

“Defendant Navistar made careless corporate business decisions to enhance profits by only offering necessary and reasonable collision avoidance systems as optional equipment,” the lawsuit claimed. “Defendant Rush made careless corporate business decisions to minimize expenses by failing to purchase a necessary and reasonable collision avoidance system that was offered by defendant Navistar as an option on the truck.”

Rush Trucking Centers also is being accused of not informing the trucking company that owns the truck of the availability of comparable trucks with collision avoidance systems. The leasing company motioned to be removed from the case, arguing Navistar is responsible for any defect, not the company that sells it. The court denied that motion while also calling the truck “defective” and “unreasonably dangerous” for not having certain, nonmandatory equipment.

“Because the truck was unreasonably dangerous by virtue of its defective condition – not having collision avoidance and similar systems – and because Rush is in the business of supplying products for public use, Rush is subject to strict liability,” the court ruled. “Finally, the Shimmels contend that they have alleged and will prove that Rush failed to properly retrofit the truck and that Rush is liable for that failure.”

The federal court also stated that installing the safety features would have been much easier and cost-efficient than potentially dealing with a lawsuit.

“The truck lacked a collision-avoidance system or an autonomous braking system, both elements that Rush could have installed on the truck prior to leasing it to Express,” the court stated. “A reasonable person could plausibly conclude that installing those systems on the truck was less burdensome than the potential for harm of not installing those systems.”

Both trucking companies eventually agreed to settle the case. Terms of the settlement are sealed as of publication. Navistar could not be immediately reached for comment. LL

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.