Product Liability

(Parties cannot be revealed)
1997 Product Liability

Client v. Japanese Automobile Manufacturer (Passive restraint system seat belt)


Type of Claim: Plaintiff, minor child, was a front seat passenger in a Japanese manufactured automobile when his mother rear-ended a Bi-State bus. Plaintiff sustained a fracture of his neck leaving him with reduced use of his arms and legs (partial quadriplegia). The seat belt system had a separate waist belt that was manually engaged while the shoulder harness was a passive system that locked into place when the door was shut. The child did not engage the waist strap.

Plaintiff sued Japanese Automobile Manufacturer for inadequate instruction and warning and defective seatbelt design and manufacture. Defendant claimed that plaintiff failed to use manual lab belt in addition to passive shoulder belt, and was therefore at fault. When manufactured the system was government approved, but the regulation has since changed.

Settled during discovery and prior to trial.

Settlement: Present Value of Guaranteed Structured Settlement Payout: $1,327,427.00

Probable Life Expectancy Settlement Payout: $2,000,000.00

Comment: The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that under certain circumstances that if a medical device is manufactured in compliance with government regulations, the manufacturer is immune from suit. This was a bad decision because if the government approves a badly designed device they shouldn’t be immune from their dangerous products. There are other cases before the Supreme Court which may extend this immunity to drugs and manufactured items.