Case of the Week

'Malfunction Theory' At Center Of Car Fire Case Before Supreme Court

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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The Law Tribune previews interesting or important cases most weeks when the state Appellate Court or the state Supreme Court are in session.

Case: Roland Todd White v. Mazda Motor of America Inc., et al.

Court: Supreme Court (meeting at Tolland High School)

Date: Wednesday, Oct. 29

Time: 11 a.m.

Attorneys: Frank J. McCoy, Paul D. Williams

Summary: Weeks after a man bought a new Mazda, the car caught fire and he was injured. His lawsuit against Mazda and the dealership, however, was dismissed because he failed to prove the explosion was caused by a defect. In a product liability case that has attracted several amicus briefs, he is appealing to the state Supreme Court in an effort to get the case to trial.

Background: On Oct. 16, 2006, Roland Todd White, of the Windham County town of Brooklyn, purchased a new 2007 Mazda3 compact car from Central Mazda in Plainfield. White used the car to commute to and from work, which was about 60 miles away in Westborough, Mass. He claims he made the trip about 40 times with the new car.

White hadn't had any problems until the morning of Nov. 15, 2006. While driving on Interstate 395, he noticed a strong gasoline odor coming through the vents, so he pulled over to the side of the highway. When White got out of the car, he didn't notice any heat, smoke or flames. But he said that when he opened the hood, he saw a flame and there was a small explosion.

White claims the explosion threw him backwards and he landed on the ground five or 10 feet away. As he fell, White said he heard his left knee pop. He claims to have suffered permanent damage to the knee, and sought damages.

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