PHILADELPHIA – A Bellefonte man alleges in a civil lawsuit that manufacturing defects in a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro automobile he rented from Hertz led to a tragic accident which claimed the lives of two motorists in April 2012, and further led him to receive an erroneous 20-year criminal conviction for vehicular homicide.
George Vidra of Bellefonte filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on June 12 versus The Hertz Corporation of Estero, Fla., Hertz Vehicle, LLC of Philadelphia, General Motors Company of Detroit, Mich., Robert Bosch Battery Systems, LLC of Orion, Mich. and Robert Bosch, LLC of Broadview, Ill.
Vidra’s lawsuit states in early April 2012, he rented a brand-new 2012 Chevrolet Camaro on the advice of Hertz, due to its safety features and less than 300 miles registered on its odometer. More than three weeks later, on April 26, 2012, Vidra was driving and claims he lost control of the car when it accelerated of its own accord and in an out-of-control manner.
This led to a fatal accident at the intersection of Ditman and Disston Streets in Northeast Philadelphia, where the Camaro collided with a 2006 Kia Spectra containing driver Frank Schauland and passenger Kristen Millin. Vidra says he was knocked unconscious, but later regained consciousness and extracted Millin from the mangled vehicle – though he could not do the same for Schauland because the driver’s side-door was too badly damaged to open.
Schauland and Millin were later pronounced dead from the injuries they sustained in the crash. Vidra’s blood was tested at the hospital and it was determined he was not intoxicated at the time of the accident, he claims.
But media reports say he faced DUI charges after the wreck.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged Vidra with vehicular homicide, due to the Camaro being new, allegedly not subject to any manufacturer recall and the crash resulting in the deaths of two people, the suit says.
Consequently, Vidra says that the accident caused him permanent full-body physical and emotional injuries, migraine headaches, blurred vision, back and neck pain, sleeplessness, bruising, inability to remember, need of counseling, loss of liberty and financial losses in excess of $1 million.
As a result, Vidra was convicted of the vehicular homicide charge and sentenced to 20 years in prison at the State Correctional Institute at Benner Township. From April 2012 to May 2018, Vidra says he tried to obtain proof the Camaro was defective and secure the assistance of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and all of the defendants to exonerate himself, but to no avail.
Finally, in April and May 2018, Vidra says he received a packet which contained documentation with confirmed the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro he rented was “subjected to recall for manufacturer defects in the electronic, electric, ignition and airbag systems which caused sudden acceleration, braking problems and other operational problems outside of the driver’s control.”
Vidra says he again reached out to the defendants for assistance, but once again went unanswered.
The suit adds prior to the Camaro’s release for sale, testing indicated the above-mentioned hazards and defects were present in the vehicle, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has documented numerous complaints and occurrences of sudden unintended acceleration in vehicles which contain electronic control modules without mechanical linkage to the accelerator pedal.
As a result of these series of defects, the suit alleges the vehicles in question have their Electronic Throttle Controller remain open, reducing vacuum to the braking system, causing that same system not to respond to operator activation or control, which did lead to a manufacturer recall from General Motors and subsequent lawsuits, the instant litigation claims.
The suit says the defendants knew or should have known the dangers that the recalled 2012 Camaro posed to the plaintiff and the public, failed to correct the defects prior to the vehicle’s sale, failed to warn the plaintiff and public of said defects in a timely manner and that those same defects were the direct cause of the fatal collision.
“From 2012 to 2018, the defendants, jointly and severally, have used deception, denial and skullduggery in their attempts to avoid liability and responsibility for their acts, omissions and their defective and dangerous products. The acts and omissions of the defendants, jointly and severally, were extreme and outrageous. Plaintiff respectfully moves for a jury trial for all issues and claims triable,” the suit states.
For counts of product liability-based design defect failure, breach of contract, breach of implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, negligence, negligence per se and negligent infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, fraud and violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, the plaintiff is seeking damages, jointly and severally, in excess of $75,000 inclusive of actual damages, compensatory damages, incidental damages and consequential damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, interest, costs and for all other relief deemed just and proper, in addition to a trial by jury.
No party in the case has yet retained counsel.
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180601215
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org