Rollover Accident Causes Seatbelt Mounted Driver Door To Open and Driver To Be Ejected
FACTS & ALLEGATIONS:
On Sept. 23, 2004, plaintiffs’ decedent Teodoro Doe Jr., 24, a farmhand, lost control of his 1988 Pontiac Grand Prix while traveling south on I-25 in Dona Ana County. The car left the road and overturned. The plaintiffs claimed that the driver door opened during the rollover, and Doe was ejected. He sustained fatal injuries.
The car’s passive restraint system was a door-mounted combination lap/shoulder belt. This design first appeared in GM vehicles in the 1988 model year. The belt retractors are designed not to lock up when the door opens. Doe’s estate and family sued General Motors Corp. for products liability. The plaintiffs claimed that the door-mounted restraint system is useless in any collision in which the occupant’s door opens, and that GM knew it.
The plaintiffs claimed that the door latching system was too elastic and had too much horizontal rotation in key components, allowing the doors to open under crash forces, and that GM was aware of many instances of doors opening that greater horizontal strength would have prevented. The plaintiffs alleged that the company failed to test the restraint and door-latching systems appropriately in a variety of foreseeable crash situations, such as this one.
GM denied negligence and design defect.
Doe sustained a right subdural hematoma and extensive cerebral edema. Five hours later, he died.
The entire family was close, said their attorneys, and Teodoro’s death was extremely difficult for them emotionally. He had also provided for his wife financially. The plaintiffs claimed mental anguish, loss of pecuniary contributions, and mental anguish.
RESULT: GM settled for a confidential amount.
Rob Ammons is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, in addition to being Board Certified in Civil Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Rob Ammons’ law practice, The Ammons Law Firm, is located in Houston, Texas. The Ammons Law Firm practice is exclusively personal injury law, handling such cases as: tire defects, oil rig explosions, truck accidents, plant explosions, refinery accidents, wrongful death, post-collision fires, seat belt defects, airbag defects, SUV rollovers and workplace negligence.