On October 11, 2006, at 6:00 a.m., Martin Nagel was driving his new 2006 Nissan 350Z northbound on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles just as LAPD motorcycle officer Steven Johnson was approaching him in the opposite lanes. At approximately 65 mph, the left front wheel of Nagel’s car fractured, separated from his vehicle, flew over the center divider and struck Johnson’s motorcycle.
Johnson was knocked from his bike and slid approximately 150 feet. He suffered a number of injuries to his knees, hips, arms and back as well as dislocation of two fingers, a broken finger, a right shoulder injury and an intervertebral disc injury.
Nagel had purchased his vehicle from Antelope Valley Nissan. The court established that Antelope Valley Nissan had applied after-market factory chrome to OEM wheels even though they should have known that this application could change the metallurgical properties of the wheels, including their hardness and tensile strength.
Fourteen years prior to the accident (1992), Nissan North America had issued a technical service bulletin stating that dealers should not sell OEM wheels with aftermarket chrome, but Antelope Valley Nissan had done so.
The civil case was heard in Los Angeles Superior Court in front of Judge Melvin D. Sandvig and suit was brought by law offices of Ian Herzog for plaintiff Johnson. Damages awarded were settled at $2.75 M.
The Nissan Dealership claimed that any defects were actually the fault of other defendants who performed the chroming, stripping and plating of the wheels, and numerous parties were involved in complaints and cross complaints. Additional settlements may occur with these parties.