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Parents win product liability suit against car-maker

The parents of a 19-year-old girl from Texas have won a product liability suit against the car manufacturer Hyundai. The 19-year-old girl was involved in a car accident while she was reclined in Hyundai Tucson SUV. A jury initially ruled that the car seat the teenager was reclined in during the wreck was defectively designed and an appellate court agreed with the jury’s decision.

The 19-year-old girl and her younger sister who was 16 years old went to go see their other sister play in a softball tournament five hours away from their home near Dallas in July 2007. On the way back from the tournament, the 16-year-old sister helmed the steering wheel of the car and the 19-year-old reclined in the front passenger seat to take a nap on the voyage home.

At some point during the drive, the 16-year-old girl who was driving the Hyundai SUV fell asleep while driving 80 miles per hour and started to drift off of the road. The 19-year-old woke her sister up and the 16-year-old overcorrected twice. The over-corrections caused the vehicle to leave the road, crash into a barbed wire fence and flip three times.

Both sisters were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident, and the 16-year-old driver only suffered minor injuries. The 19-year-old was ejected from the vehicle and died while she was being airlifted to a nearby hospital.

The parents of the girl sued Hyundai for product liability and argued that the SUV’s front passenger seat and seat belt system were defective because the seat reclined to an unsafe position beyond 45 degrees. At trial the parents’ expert testified that the front seats of the Hyundai Tucson SUV reclined beyond 45 degrees and a reclined car seat beyond 45 degrees significantly increases the chance of ejection. The expert also testified that ejection increases the risk of injury by six to 13 times. The parents also demonstrated that a safer alternative to the car seat existed.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Texas teen’s death will cost Hyundai $810K,” Cameron Langford, Aug. 25, 2011

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