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$24.7M California Auto Products Liability Judgment Awarded in Seatback Collapse that Left Woman a Paraplegic

A jury has awarded a woman $24.7 million for the California seat back collapse lawsuit she filed against seat manufacturer Johnsons Controls. Jaklin Romine became a paraplegic following the 2006 rear-end car crash. Romine, who is paralyzed from the chest down, says she will use the money to pay for full-time care, a vehicle she can drive on her own, and school.

The catastrophic auto accident occurred on October 21, 2006 when Romine was stopped at an intersection. When the rear-end crash happened, the driver’s seat she was using broke and fell backwards, which caused her body to push backward below her seat belt. Her head then hit the back of the rear passenger seat.

During her California auto products liability trial, Jaklin’s legal team argued that the car seat was so weak that it couldn’t withstand the impact from a crash, which involved speeds as low as 30-mph. They accused the manufacturer of placing front vehicle occupants at serious risk of spinal cord injury, head injuries, and vehicle ejection.

Seatback Collapse Lawsuits

Seat back failure is a potentially fatal auto defect. Seatback collapses are most likely to happen in rear-end crashes when a car seat was made with inadequate seat strength or is faulty in other ways fails. When a vehicle is struck from the rear, its seats should be strong enough to stay upright and keep the occupants in place even as the force of impact moves the car forward and then jolts the passengers backwards. Unfortunately, this isn’t always what happens and when seatback failure does occur, the driver can lose control of the auto, occupants may be ejected partially or completely from the vehicle or tossed around inside the auto, those riding in the rear seat can be fatally crushed or killed in a front seat collapse, or the collapsed seats may end up blocking the car doors or windows and eliminating all exits.

Unfortunately, current safety standards for car seats are not tough enough and they have not been updated in more than 3 decades. Car seats only have to pass a strength requirement and despite their known failure rate during National Highway Traffic Safety Administration impact tests, they are not subject to a crash test rating.
That said, regardless of what the current auto seat standard is, it is the responsibility of automakers and seat manufacturers to make sure that their car seats are not weak and prone to failure during an auto accident.

LA Woman Awarded $24M after Crash Collapses Her Car Seat, My Fox LA, April 18, 2011
New study supports case for stronger seats, The Safety Record, July 2, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Hyundai Ordered to Pay $1.8 Million Auto Products Liability Verdict for Teenager’s Wrongful Death Caused by Poorly Designed Car Seat, Product Liability Law Blog, May 15, 2010
Ford Motor Co. and Woman Paralyzed in SUV Accident Involving Rear Seat Latch Failure Reach Auto Products Liability Settlement, Product Liability Law Blog, January 11, 2010
Seat Belt Syndrome: Child Safety Continues to Take a Back Seat, Product Liability Law Blog, November 14, 2009

You should speak to an experienced auto products liability lawyer to find out if you have grounds for a defective car seat complaint.

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