Seatbelt Buckle Defect and Weak Roof Structure Kills Mother
FACTS & ALLEGATIONS:
On May 17, 2003, plaintiffs’ decedent Margaret Doe, 42, was driving her four children in the Doe family’s 1998 Ford Expedition in a three-vehicle caravan on SH 69 near Kountze, when she lost control of the vehicle, it rolled over several times and she was ejected. Witnesses claimed that a barbecue pit blew out of the second vehicle in the caravan and Doe lost control of the vehicle when she swerved to avoid hitting it.
Doe’s family, sued Ford Motor Co.; alleging wrongful death, negligence and strict liability. They claimed that there were defects in the manufacture, design and/or marketing of the Expedition and the driver’s seatbelt restraint system that caused Doe’s death.
Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged, the Expedition was difficult to handle and fairly unstable in foreseeable evasive maneuvers, and its occupant restraint system and roof structure failed to offer appropriate occupant protection and containment during rollover incidents. With regard to the seatbelt buckle, the plaintiffs alleged that it had a propensity to unlatch during collisions and accident events, resulting in obvious failure to restrain and retain occupants. These defects directly led to Doe’s ejection and fatal injuries, the plaintiffs alleged. In addition, the plaintiffs alleged that Ford knew that SUVs such as the Expedition rolled-over at a much greater rate than passenger cars and that rollover crashes inflicted some 12,000 head injuries and 3,000 spinal cord injuries each year yet Ford did “precious little” to properly address the three most significant injury risks posed in rollover crashes: roof crush, ejection and safety belt performance failure.
Doe was taken emergently to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont for treatment of severe closed head injuries. She was there for five days before she died, upon which she became an organ donor. She left behind a husband, son, three daughters and her parents. Doe’s estate claimed $120,459.77 to recover medical services incurred to save her life, and $8,532.45 for funeral expenses that were incurred, and compensation for her suffering from the time of the accident until her death.
The Family sought damages for termination of their familial relationships and loss of the love, comfort, companionship and society they would have received if Doe had lived, compensation for loss of household services, and compensation for emotional pain and torment that they have experienced and continue to experience in connection with her death.
RESULT: The parties settled for a confidential amount. TRW’s counsel did report that all of the money will be going to the children, none to the parents.
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.