In early summer, a Philadelphia jury ordered Honda Motor Co. to pay $55.3 million to a Pennsylvania man who was left paralyzed in a 2010 rollover accident while driving his Acura Integra.
Attorneys argued during the trial that the man’s injuries were the result of faulty seat belt design in the Acura. Carlos Martinez, 57, of York, was driving to work in Baltimore when a tire blew out and he lost control of the car, The Associated Press (AP) reported. Court documents state that the seat belt failed to prevent his head from hitting the roof of the car as it rolled over. Prior to the accident, Martinez, a married father of four, worked construction as a glazier, but he is now paralyzed from the chest down. The damages awarded include money for pain and suffering, future medical expenses, loss of consortium and loss of earnings.
Martinez’s nephew, who was a passenger in the car, was wearing his seatbelt but was not injured in the crash.
A spokesman for Acura, which is a division of Honda, denied any problems with the seat belt, saying it was a “proven restraint system used by virtually every manufacturer.” The company plans to appeal. The company further said that there is “no vehicle-based defect” that caused the injuries, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said in an emailed statement. However, it was reported that Honda knew such an injury was possible based on seat belt testing conducted in 1992, according to the AP.
A 2004 report on rollover crashes by the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, said that, “despite the growing sales of rollover-prone SUVs and pickup trucks, [automakers] have done little to address the three terrible, and inter-related, risks of rollover crashes; roof crush, ejection, and safety belt performance failure.” The Public Citizen report said “Current standard belt systems do not adequately hold the occupant in the seat structure thus permitting lateral (side-to-side) and vertical (up-and-down) movement of an occupant’s head and body during a rollover, which allows contact with the roof or vehicle roof support pillars, or partial ejection of the occupant’s head and body through the side window or door, with devastating results.” And some seat belts can “fail to pull slack in quickly enough to prevent occupants from repeatedly slamming their head and bodies against hard…surfaces.”
For more information on any injuries caused by a defective product, including defect motor vehicles, feel free to call Gacovino Lake at 1-800-246-HURT (4878) to speak with an attorney.