On August 8, 2004, three young people were killed in a tragic automobile accident due to the gross negligence of Brake Check in failing to properly train or equip their employees in the replacement of the brakes of one of the vehicles involved only 12 days prior to the accident.
Brake Check Law Suit: Letter Detailing the Accident and Resulting Law Suit
Following are complete details of the accident and the resulting law suit against Brake Check:
Re: Accident Resulting in Three Deaths Due to Brake Check's Inadequate and Incomplete Brake Work.
To Whom It May Concern: The purpose of this letter is to provide you with important information about Brake Check's general practices and work performed on my son's 2000 GMC Yukon that directly led to his death and the tragic death of two other young adults on August 8, 2004. In connection with a civil suit I brought against Brake Check, we discovered that Brake Check failed to follow industry standards in assembling the rear brakes and bleeding the hydraulic brake system of the GMC Yukon. The combination of numerous errors and omissions by Brake Check led to a major accident only 12 days later.
I lost my only son due to Brake Check's gross negligence. I am providing this information about Brake Check's shoddy workmanship and poor business practices in the hope that public disclosure of this information may ensure that this will not happen to anyone else.
I. The Accident
On August 8, 2004, my son, Scotty Caven, an incoming freshman at The University of Texas at Austin, was traveling in a GMC Yukon back to Houston with his close friend Nick Finnegan after a trip to the University in Austin. Traffic was heavy as the two young men proceeded east on Interstate 10 between Columbus and Brookshire. Scotty was driving at or below the speed limit and with the flow of traffic.
As Scotty approached milepost 727, traffic slowed down unexpectedly. Scotty and others around him timely applied their brakes. Eyewitnesses to the accident testified that after initially slowing, the GMC Yukon went into an uncontrolled yaw , crossed the median, went airborne, and collided with three westbound vehicles. The GMC Yukon's collision with westbound traffic caused the deaths of Scotty, Nick, and the driver of the first vehicle the GMC Yukon struck, Brittany J. Cune.
On July 27, 2004, only twelve days before the accident, Scotty had taken his GMC Yukon to Brake Check for a thorough brake inspection and new brakes. When Scotty and I went to pick up the GMC Yukon at around 8:00 p.m. that same evening, Brake Check advised us that it was having trouble clearing the brake lines because there was "trash" in the lines. When Scotty got home almost two hours later, he told me that Brake Check employees told him that they were unable to clear the trash from the brake lines, and suggested that he drive the GMC Yukon for a few days and, if he had any problems with it, to bring it back. Brake Check's own experts, however, now agree that Brake Check should never have released the GMC Yukon to Scotty Caven.
II. The Investigation and Resulting Lawsuit Against Brake Check
I hired my own investigators to inspect the GMC Yukon after the accident. The investigation conducted by my independent investigators showed that the GMC Yukon's rear brakes were in a defective condition. Eyewitnesses to the accident stated that Scotty was traveling between 60 to 65 MPH and was paying attention.
I subsequently hired Charles R. Parker and Jesus Garcia, Jr. of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP to further investigate the matter. Messrs. Parker and Garcia filed a lawsuit against Brake Check (the “Lawsuit”) and hired multiple experts to fully inspect the GMC Yukon and reconstruct the accident. These experts concluded that Brake Check failed to clear the air from the hydraulic brake system, broke the left rear bleeder screw , improperly installed the right rear self adjuster, and failed to properly adjust the shoe to drum clearance on the right rear wheel. The air contamination along with the excessive shoe to drum clearance in the right rear wheel caused the GMC Yukon to go into an uncontrolled yaw when Scotty applied his brakes in the emergency situation.
III. Brake Check's Inadequate and Incomplete Work on the GMC Yukon
Brake Check's errors and omissions can be broken down into two categories, the inadequate assembly of the right rear brakes and the failure to properly bleed the hydraulic brake system.
A. The Incomplete Right Rear Brake Assembly
Brake Check failed to properly assemble the right rear brakes leaving them in a defective condition. First, Brake Check failed to properly adjust the shoe to drum clearance. Brake Check's own expert testified that the accepted shoe to drum clearance is .020 to .030 inches. Brake Check left the shoe to drum clearance .125 inches out of adjustment. This would have never happened had Brake Check followed industry standards and its own procedures to adjust the shoe to drum clearance after installing the brake shoes. Instead, Brake Check's employee testified that he did not follow the industry standard and Brake Check's own procedure, which resulted in the excessive gap between the shoes and the drum on the right rear wheel. Brake Check failed to make the final adjustment using a tool known as a brake adjusting spoon. In addition, Brake Check failed to properly assemble the right rear self adjuster rendering it useless. The purpose of the self adjuster is to adjust the shoe to drum clearance to an accepted tolerance when the shoes start to wear due to normal use. In summary, not only did Brake Check fail to properly adjust the shoe to drum clearance when it assembled the brakes, it also failed to properly install the self adjuster rendering it useless. This is the very same device that would have had any chance of adjusting the excessive shoe to drum clearance over time. Instead, the shoe to drum clearance only grew larger as Scotty applied his brakes during normal use.
B. Brake Check's Failure to Properly Bleed the Hydraulic Brake System
Brake Check also failed to properly bleed the air from the hydraulic brake system. First, Brake Check broke the left rear bleeder screw during the bleeding procedure. In addition, Brake Check did not provide its technicians with any scan tools. A scan tool is an electronic device used by technicians to activate the hydraulic brake module of a vehicle so that it will release all trapped air into the brake lines, and its use in this procedure is required by the General Motors Service Manual. Once the air is released into the brake lines, a technician follows other procedures to clear the air from the brake lines. Not only did Brake Check not own or have any scan tools at its shop, its technicians had never been trained to use nor heard of such a tool. Brake Check did not provide its technicians with the General Motors Service Manual at any of their stores. Experts in the Lawsuit who owned their own mechanic shops testified that one must always use a scan tool to bleed the hydraulic brake system. They further testified that employees at their shops always use a scan tool to bleed the hydraulic brake system. Brake Check also failed to clear the air from the brake lines. The hydraulic brake system of the GMC was contaminated with air when it left Brake Check.
C. Brake Check's Inadequate and Incompetent Work Caused the Accident
The excessive shoe to drum clearance and air contamination led to a loss of directional control, uneven braking, and increased stopping time and stopping distance during Scotty's emergency situation. The air contamination along with the excessive shoe to drum clearance in the right rear wheel caused the GMC Yukon to go into an uncontrolled yaw when Scotty applied his brakes. Experts, including Brake Check's own experts, testified that they would have never released the GMC Yukon in this condition from their mechanic shops.
IV. Brake Check had no choice but to settle the Lawsuit.
Based on the overwhelming evidence presented by experts on both sides of the Lawsuit proving Brake Check's negligence in performing its brake work on the GMC Yukon, Brake Check settled the Lawsuit for $3,075,000.00 on May 19, 2008. This, on its own, is an admission of fault.
V. The Official DPS Report
The official Texas Department of Public Safety accident report concluded that brake failure was the cause of the accident. The official DPS accident investigation report is now part of the permanent record on file at the DPS.
The provisions of the Texas Transportation Code provide that anyone wishing to obtain an official copy of the crash report may do so by writing to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 5805 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78752-442 and providing the following information:
- A. The date of the accident – August 8, 2004
- B. The specific address of the highway where the accident occurred – near Mile Post 727 on Interstate 10 east of Sealy, Texas and west of the Brazos River bridge
- C. The name of any person involved in the accident – H. Scott Caven, III
I will be happy to provide you with supporting testimony for any issue. If you have any questions or requests, please do not hesitate to contact me, H. Scott Caven, Jr., at 2169 Troon Rd., Houston, Texas 77019, Telephone: 713-521-0128, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I or my attorneys, Mr. Parker and Mr. Garcia, will be pleased to discuss any issue with you in more detail and provide you with any materials needed from my files. You may also wish to verify the facts stated in this letter directly with Brake Check and with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
I am providing this information to be available for any consumer who may be a potential customer of Brake Check and who inquires about a review of their safety record as a business entity.
The public needs to be aware of how Brake Check operates its business.