As the RV industry watches the bellwether trial unfold this week in New Orleans involving Forest River Inc., a second Elkhart County, Ind.-based RV firm prepares for its day in court.
Keystone RV Co. is scheduled to be in court starting July 19 to face its accuser, 2005 hurricane victim David McGraw, who claims he was sickened by a Keystone-built travel trailer. Keystone built thousands of trailers that went to Gulf State RV dealers who in turn provided them to FEMA. McGraw came to live in one of the Keystone trailers.
Although attorneys on both sides are not tipping their hands, the trial will likely unfold along lines similar to last year’s trial involving Gulf Stream Coach Inc. and this week’s Forest River trial.
Keystone hopes the trial ends as it did for Gulf Stream, with an innocent verdict in just four hours.
The Keystone trial preparation has taken on unexpected twists this winter as several plaintiffs have stepped forward, and then backed out of the bellwether litigation, David Thomas, attorney for Keystone, told RVBUSINESS,com. The trials are designed to help the federal court resolve the thousands of suits filed against RV makers that provided emergency shelter for storm victims who subsequently claimed the trailers sickened them.
The original plaintiff, Diana Bell, subsequently withdrew her complaint.
“The court for consistency appointed her son, Raymond Bell II, who also lived in the same trailer,” Thomas explained. “Raymond Bell for a number of reasons decided he could not do it,” citing issues with school and work and withdrew, Thomas said.
The judge allowed the dismissal “with prejudice,” meaning he could not bring suit again.
The judge then named David McGrew as the next bellwether plaintiff.
What happens this week in Judge Kurt Englehardt’s court is of paramount interest to the RV industry.
“The RV industry is watching,” said Thomas, “All the (court) cases are intertwined. What happens in one impacts the other.”
Between this week’s Forest River trial and Keystone’s in July is one for Recreation by Design LLC, another Elkhart, Ind.-based RV manufacturer. The firm makes park models, travel trailers and fifth-wheels. Its trial is scheduled for May.