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Wolf v. Toyota Motor Corp.

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

May 29, 2013

Natalie Wolf, as the Administratrix of the Estates of Joy L. Ward, John B. Ward, and Sarah J. Ward and as Guardian and Next Friend of Hailey Ward, a minor,
v.
Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., and CF Schwartz Motor Co., Inc.,

Submitted: March 6, 2013

On Defendants' Motion for Leave to File a Third-Party Complaint.

Timothy E. Lengkeek, Esquire Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP Attorney for Plaintiffs

Anapol Schwartz, Esquire Larry E. Cohen, Esquire Attorneys pro hac vice for Plaintiffs

James M. Kron, Esquire Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP Attorney for Defendants Toyota Motor Corporation Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc. C.F. Schwartz Motor Co., Inc.

Richard R. Cooch, R.J.

Dear Counsel:

Plaintiffs Hailey Ward and Estates of Joy L. Ward, John B. Ward, and Sarah J. Ward claim that defects in the Wards' 2007 Toyota Camry's design aggravated or "enhanced" their injuries in a crash. Defendants Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc., and C.F. Schwartz Motor Co., Inc. (collectively, "Toyota") contend that Darien Custis' and John F. Warfield's negligence caused the Wards' crash and contributed to their injuries and deaths. Therefore, Toyota asks the Court for leave to file a third-party complaint against Custis and Warfield. But because their alleged negligence did not legally cause the Wards' alleged additional injuries, the motion is DENIED.

I. FACTS

On August 23, 2009, the Wards – mother Joy L. Ward, father John B. Ward, and daughters Sarah J. Ward and Hailey Ward – were heading north on State Route 30 in Sussex County.[1] While driving his father's Mercedes-Benz south, Darien Custis reached for a bottle of iced tea on the car's floor.[2] The Mercedes-Benz crossed the center line and struck the front of the Wards' 2007 Toyota Camry.[3]Joy, John, and Sarah died; Hailey and Custis lived.[4] Custis later pled guilty to the vehicular homicides of Joy, John, and Sarah.[5]

Natalie Wolf, the administratrix of Joy's, John's, and Sarah's estates and Hailey's guardian and next friend, has sued Toyota, claiming that the Camry was not "crashworthy."[6] Plaintiffs' only claim is that defects in the Camry's design "enhanced" the Wards' injuries.[7] Plaintiffs did not sue Custis or John F. Warfield, the owner of the Mercedes-Benz and Custis' father.[8]

On May 31, 2012, the Court ordered that Plaintiffs and Toyota join any other parties by November 21, 2012.[9] On this day, Toyota filed the instant motion, in which it asked the Court for leave to implead Custis and Warfield under Superior Court Civil Rule 14(a).[10]

In the Motion, Toyota argues that Custis' and Warfield's negligence was a legal cause of the Wards' "enhanced" injuries.[11] On this basis, Toyota asserts that it may implead Custis and Warfield because, if Toyota is found liable, then

1. Toyota, Custis, and Warfield are joint tortfeasors,
2. thus Toyota has a right to indemnity or contribution from Custis and Warfield.[12]

Further, Toyota claims that denying the Motion would prejudice Toyota because the jury will empathize with the Wards' surviving daughter, Hailey Ward, and assign a greater share of liability to Toyota, as it will ...


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