2024 DRI Strictly Automotive Seminar

September 18–20, 2024
Chicago Hyatt Regency | Chicago, Illinois

White cars in manufacturing production

Hear From Top Voices Within the Automotive Industry!

DRI members can register now through June 20 and save up to $500 thanks to exclusive, limited-time Early Access Registration!
Everyone can take advantage of Early Bird Registration starting June 21 through August 5. View registration information here.

Join us for this year's Strictly Automotive Seminar, which will focus on regulatory updates in the United States and Canada related to the right to repair, early warning defects, and incident reporting. Automotive safety experts will share their in-depth knowledge on driver behavior in motor vehicle collisions and the biomechanics of injuries in frontal airbag deployments. Plus, attendees will have the opportunity to benefit from a presentation by in-house counsel and experienced trial counsel. A variety of topics will be covered, including strategies to address post-pandemic changes in juror attitudes towards damages. Recent examples of the effectiveness of these strategies will also be provided.

What You Will Learn:

  • Post-pandemic jury verdict trends and their impact on the automotive industry.
  • Recent trends in automotive right-to-repair and warranty case law and practical tips for the industry.
  • How to comply with the latest NHTSA and Transport Canada regulations regarding defects and incident reporting.
  • Expert insight related to investigating contested liability collisions from a human factor/driver behavior perspective.

Expand Your Network By:

  • Making connections in the heart of Chicago steps away from the iconic Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and Magnificent Mile.
  • Building contacts through an interactive Networking Lunch and a Premier Networking Reception on Thursday at the seminar’s downtown riverfront location.
  • Cultivating relationships with colleagues and clients through dine-arounds on Wednesday and Thursday nights in the city.
  • Experiencing world-class museums and attractions with old and new friends.

Panel Counsel Meetings with Major Companies
Take advantage of the opportunity to engage with key industry companies* including:

  • Great American Insurance – Risk Solutions
  • Trilogy Health Services

*Subject to change

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Thank You to DRI's Product Liability Committee Leadership

Natalie Eschbach
Natalie Eschbach
Program Chair
Haley Johnston
Haley Johnston
Program Vice Chair
Fred E. (Trey) Bourn III
Trey Bourn
Committee Chair
Lindsay Lorimer
Lindsay Lorimer
Committee Vice Chair
James Weatherholtz
James Weatherholtz
Law Institute

Join the Product Liability Committee

Registration Information

DRI members can register now through June 20 and save up to $500 thanks to exclusive, limited-time Early Access Registration! Don't miss this limited-time opportunity to secure your spot before other registrants, and at the lowest price.

Register Now!

Non-Member Registration Options:

  • Become a member today for early access by clicking "Join DRI Today." See what people are saying about DRI and find the right membership for your needs.
  • Click "Get Notified" to get updates on the seminar so you don't miss out.
  • Early Bird Registration opens for everyone starting June 21.
Join DRI Today Get Notified
Member Pricing Non-Member Pricing Non-Member Bundle ^
Member Only Early Access
(Now thru June 20)
$1,195 Not Offered Not Offered
Early Bird Registration*
(June 21–Aug. 5)
$1,395 $1,795 $1,715
Regular Registration*
(Aug. 6–Sept. 17)
$1,595 $1,995 $1,915
Onsite Registration $1,695 $2,095 $2,015
Group Registration (Non-Sponsored)** $1,095 per person $1,095 per person $1,095 per person
Government Government members will receive the applicable government rate for the seminar upon login. If the government rate does not appear after logging in, please call DRI directly at (312) 795-1101 to receive the discounted rate. Invoices can be sent after purchase upon request.

Not a DRI Member? Select the Non-Member Bundle and Save!

^ Not a DRI Member and want to save on your registration? Take advantage of the Non-Member / Trial Membership Bundle when you register for the DRI Strictly Automotive Seminar. Select the bundle and get up to 9 months of membership with the membership add-on when you check out. Note: Trial membership processing can take up to 30 days from the date of purchase, please contact DRI Customer Service with any questions.

Learn more about membership at DRI and get started on your DRI journey today!

*If your membership recently lapsed, please renew your membership prior to registering to ensure you receive your discounted member rate. If you would like to join DRI to receive the member pricing and see the benefits of becoming a member, click here to go to the Application page.

**Group registration is for registering four or more attendees, members and non-members. There is one free registration with every 10 registrations. You must lock in the rate three weeks prior to the seminar. If you want to register for the group pricing, fill out the form here (online registration is not available for this offering).

Networking Events

Premier Networking Reception
Sponsored by: ABC

Date: Thursday, September 19 from 6:00–8:00 p.m.
Pricing: Free when you register for the seminar
Location: Hyatt Regency Chicago

Eager to connect with fellow attendees after an inspiring day of learning? Join us for the DRI Premier Networking Reception on Thursday, September 19 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. This is your chance to unwind, mingle, and build valuable connections over light appetizers and open bar that features DRI's signature mocktail. Enjoy the casual atmosphere as you chat with industry peers and thought leaders. It's the perfect way to cap off your day and set the stage for meaningful conversations and lasting relationships. Don't miss out on this exclusive opportunity to network with the best and brightest in the field. We can't wait to see you there!

Agenda with Speakers

*Schedule and Speakers subject to change

Wednesday, September 18, 2024

Time (Central) Program
12:00 p.m. Registration
6:00 p.m. Networking / Cocktail Hour
7:30 p.m. Dine-Arounds

Join colleagues and friends at selected restaurants for dinner (on your own).

Thursday, September 19, 2024

Time (Central) Program
8:30 a.m. Registration & Coffee Service
9:00 a.m. Welcome and Introductions

James Weatherholtz, Womble, Bond, Dickinson (US) LLP, Charleston, SC
Natalie Eschbach, Litchfield Cavo LLP, Chicago, IL
9:15 a.m. TREAD vs. ACTIVE - Early Warning Defect and Incident Reporting in the United States and Canada

It has been nearly 25 years since the implementation of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act in the United States, which was implemented with an eye towards giving NHTSA early insight into possible safety issues. TREAD requires vehicle and equipment manufacturers to report to NHTSA on a wide variety of information that could indicate the existence of a potential safety defect or noncompliance and to advise NHTSA of foreign safety recalls and other safety campaigns. This year, Transport Canada introduced Analysis of Companies’ Technical Information for Vehicle and Equipment (ACTIVE), an early warning defect and incident reporting regime similar to TREAD. What does a quarter century of experience with TREAD tell us about early warning regulations? Has TREAD actually lead to increased numbers of recalls and how has it impacted litigation? How has TREAD reporting impacted in-house counsel? Just how similar are TREAD and ACTIVE, and what should counsel have in mind with the implementation of ACTIVE?

Christie Iannetta, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, Washington, D.C.
Timothy Cullen, McMillan LLP, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
10:15 a.m. Coffee Break
10:30 a.m. NHTSA Update: Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) Requirements for Light Vehicles
11:30 a.m. CLE Ethics Presentation

Susan Allen, Stellantis, Brookfield, WI
Marie Chafe, Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford LLP, Boston, MA
12:30 p.m. DRI Networking Lunch

Join all seminar attendees for lunch and networking opportunities that are second to none.
2:00 p.m. Getting Right the Right to Repair

The right to repair movement continues to pose unique challenges for the automotive industry. From a consumer’s perspective, the right to repair is deceptively simple – I purchased the product so I am entitled to repair it myself or to take it to a technician of my own choosing for repairs. But there are significant differences between automobile and consumer electronics, for example, that have driven a different conversation about the right-to-repair for automobiles. Automakers also face significantly different product liability risks and warranty issues requiring a more nuanced analysis of the right to repair. The increasing complexity of the technology in automobiles has also made repairing them more difficult and costlier. This has become particularly pronounced with the growth of software within vehicles and their connectivity. This panel will discuss the history of the right to repair within the automotive industry, its current positioning within the intersecting conversations surrounding environmentalism, ESG, consumer rights, and how automakers have (and can) address the challenges ahead.

George Wray, Borden, Ladner, Gervais, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Rustam Juma, Volkswagen Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Brittney Kohn, Ford Motor Company, Detroit, MI
Liz McNulty, Evans Fears & Schuttert LLP, Newport Beach, CA
3:00 p.m. Human Factors & Driver Behavior in Motor Vehicle Collisions

This seminar explores how experts investigate motor vehicle collisions when liability is contested, such as pedestrian collisions and high-speed intersection collisions. We answer questions such as how do we typically respond to various roadway hazards? How long does it take us to respond? What are the limitations of human factors, driver behavior, traffic engineering research? How do experts determine if a collision was (un)avoidable? We will also go over several, peer-reviewed published research (including our own) that de-bunks myths about typical perception-reaction time for pedestrians, cyclists, and intersection collisions. Lastly, we will explore a few case examples where this type of analysis was used and provided tremendous insight and leverage from a liability perspective.

Dr. Robert Sall (Human Factors Expert With Specialization in Driver Behaviour), J.S. Held
Dana Thorton (Senior Accident Reconstruction Expert), J.S. Held, Greenwood Village, CO
4:00 p.m. Networking Opportunities

More details to come.
6:00 p.m. Premier Networking Reception

Click here for details.
8:00 p.m. Dine-Arounds

Join colleagues and friends at selected restaurants for dinner (on your own).

Friday, September 20, 2024

Time (Central) Program
8:30 a.m. Registration & Coffee Service
9:00 a.m. Welcome and Announcements

Haley Johnston, Frost Brown Todd LLP, Indianapolis, IN
9:10 a.m. Airboss Decision Unpacked and Insights a Year Later: Perspectives from In-House and External Counsel

Many "blanket" supply agreements in the automotive industry provide that the buyer will specify the quantity to be delivered only by issuing periodic "releases." In July 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court held for the first time that such a "release-by-release" contract is not enforceable beyond the quantity specified in issued releases, and therefore can be terminated by either party. Hear from in-house counsel from a supplier and an OEM, as well as external counsel working in the space, about the implications of this decision one year out and how the law is continuing to evolve.

Aaron Gentry, DRÄXLMAIER Automotive of America, Greenville, SC
Jason D. Killips, Brooks Wilkins Sharkey & Turco PLLC, Birmingham, MI
10:10 a.m. Coffee Break
10:25 a.m. Facial Injury Biomechanics of Airbag Deployment: There’s an ATD for that!

In motor vehicle collisions with frontal airbag deployment, injuries are sometimes attributed to contact with the airbag and claims sometimes arise regarding the aggressiveness of airbag deployment. While ATDs, or "crash test dummies", are widely used to understand occupant motions and loading in motor vehicle collisions, the traditional Hybrid III ATD does not provide data on facial or eye loading. Using tools like the FOCUS (Facial and Ocular CountermeasUre Safety) headform, the forces applied to discrete regions of the face and eyes can be quantified in impact scenarios. This testing has been used in research and in litigation contexts to understand if and how facial fractures or eye injuries occurred and whether an airbag impact is the likely cause of such injuries. This presentation will include a discussion of what these methods can and cannot do and how they can be employed to evaluate and litigate airbag claims.

Ian Campbell, Ph.D., P.E., Exponent, Atlanta, GA
Jill Okun, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, Cleveland, OH
Bishop Bartoni, Bush Seyferth PLLC, Troy, MI
11:25 a.m. Strategies to Address Post-Pandemic Changes in Juror Attitudes Towards Damages

Since courts resumed jury trials after the COVID shutdown, juries seem willing to award larger damages amounts than ever before. Juror viewpoints and attitudes have evolved since the pandemic, and damages awards seem to be disconnected from the proofs presented at trial. Trial counsel must be prepared to address these challenges during discovery and, most importantly, at trial. Inhouse counsel must ensure their outside counsel is developing a case narrative during discovery and employing effective strategies during trial to mitigate the risk of a runaway verdict. Join us for a moderated panel discussion between a highly experienced trial judge, veteran inhouse counsel and seasoned national trial counsel as they discuss these changing juror attitudes and best practices to address them during case work up and at trial.

Matt King, IMMI, Westfield, IN
Fred Fesard, Klein, Thomas, Lee & Fresard, Detroit, MI
Conor McLaughlin, Thompson Hine LLP, Cleveland, OH
12:25 p.m. Adjourn

Headquarters Hotel Information

The seminar will take place at Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601.
To contact the hotel directly, call 312.565.1234.

A limited number of discounted hotel rooms have been made available at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Take advantage of the group rate of $295.00 Single/Double in one of two ways:

The hotel block is limited, and rooms and rates are available on a first-come, first-served basis. You must make reservations by August 27, 2024, to be eligible for the hotel's group rate. Requests for reservations made after August 27 are subject to room and rate availability.

CLE Information

Earn up to TBD hours of continuing legal education hours (CLE) From this seminar.

View CLE Credit by State

In some states that charge late CLE submission fees, there will be a $100 late fee to report CLE credits submitted more than 30 days after a seminar/virtual event. Click the button below for more details.

CLE Late Fees


DRI's Strictly Automotive Seminar is proudly sponsored by:

If you would like to contact DRI about seminar sponsorship opportunities, including pricing, or to reserve a spot, please go to Advertising and Sponsorship.

DRI Cares

Blessings in a Backpack

Blessings in a Backpack Who Will Feed the Kids this Weekend?

Please join us in supporting Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that mobilizes communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for school-aged children across America who might otherwise go hungry. Seminar attendees will have the opportunity to fill bags of food on the way to the joint networking lunch on Thursday, September 19. Feeding a child before you feed yourself is a wonderful way to support children and families in the Chicago community.

Donate to Blessings in a Backpack

Other Information

If you have any questions or concerns regarding DRI programs, please contact DRI Customer Service at 312.795.1101 or custservice@dri.org.