The 7-year-old suffered severe and irreversible brain damage, as well as blindness and partial paralysis as a result of the rear-end collision. The boy was seated in the backseat, behind his father, who was driving. His father had stopped for a school bus. The car behind him failed to stop.
But while the boy’s younger brother, who was seated next to him in the back, emerged from the crash relatively unscathed, this young man suffered severe injuries. That’s because upon impact, the father’s seat collapsed backward, causing the father’s head to collide with son’s at high force. The result was that the boy almost died.
In the case of Rivera v. Cordova, Audi AG et al., plaintiffs alleged the German car manufacturer was aware of this defect, yet concluded it was acceptable because the knees of the rear passenger would supposedly help to absorb the force of that impact.
Plaintiffs called this a form of gross negligence because the company failed to perform any “knee-bolster test” before it started producing these vehicles. Further, the manufacturer didn’t test the collapsing seat back using a child dummy in the back to make sure the knees of a young child would safely support the seat falling back.
What’s more, no other car manufacturer considered the knees of rear seat passengers to be an acceptable shock absorbent.
Audi in court pleadings denied the vehicle was defective and insisted it was not at-fault for the boy’s extensive and permanent car accident injuries. The company noted neither the boy nor his father were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, and neither was the boy strapped into a booster seat.
Texas statutes are similar to those in Maine, which require 7-year-olds to be secured in a booster seat and harness system, while 8-year-olds are supposed to be strapped in with a regular safety seat belt.
This was the primary reason the jury assigned 20 percent fault to the father, which means the total damage award will be reduced by 20 percent, leaving the family with a total of $99.2 million. Of that, 25 percent – or $31 million – was assigned to the driver who rear-ended the family vehicle. That leaves Audi responsible for $68.2 million, though it’s probable the company will appeal.
An investigation by CBS News revealed more than 100 people in the country have been injured or killed as a result of seat back defect since 1989. The vast majority of those victims were children.
Last year, the automobile industry recalled more defective vehicles than ever before – 51 million vehicles in more than 900 separate recalls. That beat out the 2014 record-setting number of 803 recalls.
More than 200,000 vehicles in Maine were recalled last year.
The figures were largely a response by car makers to huge federal fines levied against General Motors, Takata and Fiat Chrysler for responding to serious safety issues at a snail’s pace.
The biggest of those involved Takata airbags, which were equipped with defective inflators that can explode in the face of drivers and front seat passengers, causing disfigurement, serious injury and even death.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Audi Loses $124 Million Texas Verdict Over Seat-Back Failure, March 3, 2016, By Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg.com
More Blog Entries:
Maine Car Accident Blamed on Vehicle Defect, March 15, 2016, Bangor Car Accident Attorney Blog