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Lawsuit Seeks Millions From Honda For Girl Injured By Airbag

Oct 19, 2004 | www.sun-sentinel.com

Attorneys for a 7-year-old girl paralyzed after an airbag nearly severed her spine asked a Broward Circuit Court jury on Monday to level a verdict of more than $110 million against Honda Motor Co.

Calling the airbag "a bomb behind the dashboard," Ashley Moore's attorneys argued that Honda knew as early as 1980 that passenger-side airbags could kill or maim children, but failed to adequately warn car owners for years. Ashley, now 13, lost all feeling below her ears in March 1998 after the airbag in her mother's 1996 Acura exploded in a low-speed crash just a few blocks away from their Tallahassee home.

The Moore family bought their car before 1997, when the federal government mandated warning labels in cars alerting consumers to the dangers for children of front passenger-seat airbags, argued one of the family's attorneys.

"Ashley Moore may never have function of her body ever again. At least give her justice," urged the family attorney as he concluded his closing arguments. Both sides spent Monday attempting one last time to sway the four-woman, two-man jury panel that has sat through the three-month trial before Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch.

Honda attorney John Seipp argued that while there have been 11 million Acuras made with passenger-side airbags, Ashley is the only one who has ever been seriously injured by one. There has never been a fatality, Seipp said.

He argued there were warnings about the potential dangers of airbags, both on the sun visor and in the car's owner manual. In addition, defense experts concluded that Ashley had been sitting inches from the dashboard when the airbag went off, Seipp said.

"It was the use of the vehicle, not the design of the vehicle, that caused the injuries," Seipp said.

Ashley's attorneys argued that the pre-1997 warnings on the visor and in the manual failed to adequately convey how much damage an airbag could cause. And while Honda mailed pamphlets about children and airbags in 1997 to more than four million families, the Moores never got one, they said.

The Moores, who now live in Pine Crest, were able to bring their lawsuit in Broward County rather than Tallahassee because Honda's American subsidiary is registered with the state in Plantation.

For the final 40 minutes of arguments, Ashley came into the hushed courtroom in her wheelchair, trailed by a nurse and her black Labrador helper dog, Fantom. Earlier in the day, jurors had watched for a second time a video detailing Ashley's everyday life.

"When I first wake up, I forget I can't move and then I remember," she said on the tape. "Sometimes I think about what it used to be like. I was a girl who danced."


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