Ford Motor Co. and a woman who was paralyzed in a 2005 SUV accident involving a defective rear seat latch have reached a confidential auto products liability settlement. The agreement came just after a civil jury awarded Lynn Wheeler $16,444,761 in compensatory damages against Ford and as jury members were getting ready to impose punitive damages.
Wheeler sustained catastrophic spinal cord injuries during a seatback
collapse when a car driven by John C. Stanley struck the 2002 Ford Explorer
she was a passenger. Wheeler, who was riding in the middle of the backseat
of the SUV in between two of her grandchildren, was propelled forward
into the vehicle’s center console and the back of the front seat.
Meantime, the back seat collapsed over her after the rear seat latch broke.
Her Georgia auto products liability lawsuit accused Ford of designing
a rear seat latch that was defective, disregarding safety test results
showing that the center lap seat belt wasn’t safe, and, as a cost
cutting measure, waiting to install a shoulder restraint for the SUV’s
middle seat. A law passed in 2002, but which didn’t go into effect
until 2007, now prevents car manufacturers from making vehicles with lap-only
seat belts for the rear middle seat.
Wheeler, who is now a quadriplegic, has to use a ventilator and is a confined
to a wheelchair. She has three children, nine grandchildren, and has been
married to her husband for over 40 years.
The civil jury also held driver John C. Stanley, who was 19 at the time
of the head-on crash, liable for $1,271,640 in damages.
Seat Back Defects
Defective seat backs can prove catastrophic for passengers in the event
that the seat collapses during an auto accident. Common seat back injuries
include spinal cord injuries, which can occur when the rear seat collapses
forward and crushes passengers while pushing them into the back of the
front seats, and chest and head injuries, which are more likely to occur
when the front seat collapses backwards. Children, including those seated
in child safety seats, are especially at risk of sustaining fatal injuries
during a car crash where a seatback collapse is involved.
Clayton jury returns $17 million verdict, MyCountryPaper, December 26, 2009
Seat failures and occupant restraints, SafetyForum
Related Web Resources:
Ford Motor Co.