Jury Awards $43 Million Because of Faulty Car Seat Design

st-louis-personal-injury-lawyerEven a low speed crash can have devastating effects, especially when coupled with a poorly designed car seat.

In the case of Dzemila Heco, the injuries were substantial enough to cause paralysis even though the impact happened at 35 mph. A Vermont jury agreed that because of a defect in the seat that was designed by Johnson Controls, Heco’s injuries were made more severe, and awarded her what is believed to be the largest award in Vermont state court, $43 million.

Heco’s attorney, Bob Langdon, said that the car was not the issue, the car performed well in the crash. It was not even substantially damaged. The seat, however, was flawed in design, a fact that the company acknowledged in testing that it had done, which showed that in even in low impact collisions the seat would rotate and collapse backward, a problem caused by the fact that the reclining mechanism only occurred on one side of the seat. In fact, JCI filed a patent request in 1998 that would correct the defect. The patent was for a dual-sided seat reclining mechanism, which would distribute force equally, in the event of a collision, eliminating the torquing that occurred with the single-sided mechanism.

In the patent request JCI wrote “In a rear-end impact, the seat occupant is flung into the seat back, which is inclined towards the back most of the time, in such a manner that the seat occupant tends to rise up on the seat back, like a ramp. In the conventional techniques of the art [referring to the single-side mechanism], this causes the seat back to fail, snapping from overload, and no longer being capable of supporting the seat occupant.” Modifying the design would be both protective for vehicle occupants, and was a cost-effective change.

The dual-sided mechanism would be three times stronger, having the capability to withstand more force. Heco’s attorney argued that this seat design would have prevented Heco’s injuries.

Johnson Control tried numerous times to point the finger of responsibility at the vehicle manufacturer, Chrysler, a fact that stood out to jurors – some said they found this offensive. But JCI was responsible for all designs relating to the car seats, which Chrysler paid JCI to do, and this was reflected in ample documentation produced during the trial.
The jury awarded Dzemila Heco $43 million for her injuries, agreeing with her attorneys that JCI was liable. Because of this money, Heco will be able to receive the quality of care that she deserves for the rest of her life.

After the trial was finished JCI made this statement through spokesman, Fraser Engerman, “We believe that the seat was not at fault. Its design significantly exceeded all government and industry safety standards, as well as Chrysler’s own specifications. Johnson Controls stands behind the safety of all of its products. We are evaluating our options, including an appeal.”

Missouri Product Liability Lawyers

Manufacturers and suppliers must be held accountable for their products. It is unacceptable to be aware of a defect that is potentially harmful to product users and to simply ignore it or not accept responsibility. And the jury certainly agreed that this was totally unacceptable. If you have had an experience where you or a loved one was harmed by a product because of design or some other defect, contact a Missouri personal injury attorney at the Zevan and Davidson Law Firm. We will work to get you the compensation you are entitled to and protect other consumers.

Call the Zevan and Davidson Law Firm at (314) 588-7200

 

photo credit: loredous

 

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