defective product - seat back failure
Plaintiff was rendered a quadriplegic as a result of a seat back failure involving a
vehicle manufactured and designed by Defendant.
At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was wearing his three (3) point seat belt and was
traveling northbound on Main Street, in City of Baldwin Park, when he was rear-ended by
another vehicle. As a result of the rear-end collision, the driver seat of Plaintiff’s
automobile failed and collapsed backward causing Plaintiff to suddenly slide backward into
the rear seat and severely injure his spinal cord. The failure of the seat back rendered
Plaintiff unable to maintain control of his vehicle. As a result, Plaintiff slid rearward with
both hands and feet losing contact with the vehicle’s steering wheel and floor pedals. The
seat back failure caused Plaintiff to collide into a block wall.
The paramedic who assisted in removing Plaintiff from his vehicle testified that upon
arrival he noticed Plaintiff’s seat had collapsed.
Despite being aware of seat-back failures since the 1970s, Defendant car
manufacturer had ignored design standards to increase the seat back strength of their
vehicles to mirror those of the Europeans’ in order to prevent seat back failures.
As a result of the seat back failure which Defendant car manufacturer had been
aware of since the 1970's, Plaintiff became a quadriplegic. Prior to the accident, Plaintiff
had been an active man enjoying many activities including shopping, going to the movies,
going out to dinner and family picnics. In fact, on the day of the accident, Plaintiff was on
his way to the park to exercise as he did every morning.
Defendant car manufacturer had been aware of the seat back failure defect since
the 1970s because of testing done wherein in virtually every one of the testing, Defendant
car manufacturer discovered that the front seat would fail and collapse rearward. The
Defendant Car Manufacturer became aware that most of its vehicles’ front seats would
collapse or “yield” rearward in rear-end collisions as light as 15 to 20 mph.
Defendant Car Manufacturer an alternative design which was a belt-integrated seat
technology available which Defendant Car Manufacturer tested as early as the early
1970's. The belted-integrated seat employed a restraint system built into the seat itself,
providing protection against seat back failure rearward in a rear-end impact. A primary
cause of seat back failure in modest speed rear-end impacts, is the existence of only a
single recliner mechanism asymetrically mounted on the outboard side of the front seat.
All of the strength of the seat in a rear-end impacts, must be borne by the single recliner
during an impact when the front-seat occupant’s center of mass moves rearward against
the seat back, the forces of which are usually beyond the structural load limits of the single
recliner. One of Defendant Car Manufacturer’s own solutions to this problem was to have
a dual-recliner seat design utilized in Defendant Car Manufacturer’s other vehicles, which
Defendant Car Manufacturer admitted only costs Defendant Car Manufacturer only $4 to
$6 more per vehicle.
Defendant Car Manufacturer had amassed substantial evidence from a variety of
sources that its seat back failures in rear-end impacts were the cause of substantial deaths
and serious injuries. Moreover, despite Defendant Car Manufacturer had received its own
dealer warranty claims database (MORS) and vehicle owner’s questionnaire (VOQ) which
placed Defendant Car Manufacturer on notice about seat back failures, Defendant Car
Manufacturer never investigated even a single one of the reported MORS and VOQ
injuries involving failed front seat in rear-end impacts. In fact, one of Defendant Car
Manufacturer’s engineers proposed an interim design standard which would have
increased the seat back strength of Defendant Car Manufacturer’s vehicles to generally
mirror those of the Europeans in order to prevent seat back failures, but Defendant Car
Manufacturer buried its proposal and never implemented the design.
* Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances. Because every case is different, the descriptions of awards and cases previously handled are not meant to be a guarantee of success.