Hyundai Ordered to Pay $1.8 Million Auto Products Liability Verdict for Teenagers Wrongful Death Caused by Poorly Designed Car Seat

A jury has awarded the family of Sarah Goodner a $1.8 million auto products liability verdict for her wrongful death. The 19-year-old sustained fatal injuries during a rollover car accident involving a Hyundai Tucson in July 2007.
Sarah and her sister Rebekah, then 16, were taking turns driving from San Angelo to Dallas Texas when the tragic car crash happened. At some point, Rebekah fell asleep at the wheel. Sarah, who had reclined her seat so she could rest, woke her sister up and that was when the younger girl overcorrected the sport utility vehicle, causing it to rollover three times.
While Rebekah’s seat belt kept her securely in her seat, Sarah slid out from under safety belt. She was thrown out the rear window and suffered fatal head injuries. Sarah’s family then sued Hyundai forTexas auto products liability.
Reclining Car Seat Defect
Experts say that 45 degrees is the farthest angle that a car seat can recline back before it becomes dangerous. During the auto products liability trial, evidence presented showed that the reason the seat belt failed to keep Sarah in her chair was because the seat was fully reclined. This allowed her to slide out from under her safety belt. Her family’s wrongful death lawyers accused Hyundai of failing to use available technology that would keep seats from reclining beyond the 45 degree angle and that this negligence on the part of the automaker cost Sarah her life.
On April 22, a federal jury found Hyundai responsible for Sarah’s wrongful death. They agreed with the plaintiffs that the seat was defectively designed because it was able to recline too far back. This is the first time that a jury has found that a reclining seat defect can prove fatal during a car accident.
Car’s safety design defect caused teen’s death, Colorado Connection, May 5, 2010
Teen’s death in Big Country brings $1.8M judgment against Hyundai, Reporter News, April 30, 2010
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