Pennsylvania Man Awarded $55 Million in Defective Seat Belt CaseJul 28, 2014
A Philadelphia jury ordered Honda to pay $55.3 million to a man who filed a lawsuit alleging that the seat belt in his Acura Integra was defective, causing him to suffer severe injuries when he got into a car crash.
In 2010, Carlos Martinez, 57, was driving to work when one of his tires blew out. He lost control of the vehicle and as it rolled over, his head hit the roof. His injuries caused him to be paralyzed, and he now uses a wheelchair. Martinez filed a lawsuit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, alleging that a defective seat belt failed to stop his head from hitting the roof. Rollover tests in 1992 show that Honda knew about this problem, but failed to implement any safety measures for it, the suit alleges.
The trial lasted nine days. At its conclusion, the jury agreed with Martinez's allegations. A verdict of $55.3 million was handed down; $25 million was awarded for past and future noneconomic damages, $14.6 million for future medical expenses and approximately $720,000 for the loss of past and future wages. Martinez's wife was awarded $15 million for loss of consortium.
Honda denies wrongdoing and plans to appeal the verdict. Reportedly, this has been the largest award for a Pennsylvania crashworthiness case since 1994.
In 2004, Public Citizen published a report highlighting the flaws of seat belts with regards to rollover crashes. Seat belts are relied upon to “prevent ejection of heads, arms, and other body parts,” the report pointed out. “It is critical that belts perform effectively in rollover crashes,” the authors stated. “yet evidence suggests that safety belts are tragically ineffective in many rollover crashes.”
Rollovers are not extremely common, but they are much more deadly than other types of car crashes. They account for a third of all vehicle deaths even though only make up three percent of car crashes. Between 1992 and 2002, 22,000 people wearing seat belts died in a rollover crash, according to federal data cited in the Public Citizen report.