A $25 million lawsuit blames Nissan, North America, Inc. brake problems on a deadly crash involving a 2004 Infiniti QX56 and the deaths of a mother and her two children.
The lawsuit says the 2004 QX56 that was involved in the crash had been purchased by 74-year-old Solomon Mathenge in August 2012. Although previous owners hadn't complained about brake problems, the SUV needed repairs caused by previous crashes.
Mathenge had it towed to a body shop that repaired the damage and serviced the car, receiving a certificate the vehicle had been inspected and was in working condition. However, no software updates were performed related to the braking system.
On August 29, 2012, Mathenge was traveling about 40 miles per hour in Hollywood, CA, when he saw the signal had turned red and cars were stopped ahead of him. He put his foot on the brake pedal to slow down but the pedal allegedly didn't work correctly. He pushed the brake pedal to the floor but the Infiniti didn't stop, causing the driver to panic and pump the brakes.
The lawsuit alleges Mathenge changed from the far right lane to the center lane then to the far left lane as he continued to pump the brake pedal, but the brakes allegedly still didn't work. To avoid the car stopped at the light in front of him, he pulled into the oncoming southbound lanes and honked his horn to alert that he was in trouble.
Mathenge crashed into the side of a van driven by Saida Mendez who had two of her daughters with her. Mendez and her children died in the crash while Mathenge’s body lodged under the dashboard on the passenger side of his SUV.
According to the lawsuit, the 2004 Infiniti QX56 uses a vacuum booster and a hydraulic pump to supplement braking power. The primary method is through the vacuum booster where the brake pedal pushes a lever which pushes the booster. The booster uses vacuum to increase the force applied to the brake pedal to provide additional power to compress the hydraulic fluid in the brake system.