I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. First, my regrets to the family of 19 year old Sarah Goodner, killed when the Hyundai Tucson she was riding in rolled on a Texas highway. Goodner was in the passenger seat, wearing her seat belt and shoulder harness at the time of the accident. Unfortunately, she had the seat fully reclined, and the seat belt failed to keep her in place. Goodner’s family enlisted the aid of Dallas attorney Todd Tracy in pursuing a judgement against the automaker.
The jury sided with the family, calling the reclining seat a “defect” that caused the death of Sarah Gooding. It didn’t matter that the Hyundai owner’s manual specifically stated that seats were to be reclined only when the vehicle was stopped. In fact, Tracy spun this against the automaker during the trial:
“Hyundai insulted the jury’s intelligence by claiming that its reclining seat was only supposed to be used when the car was not moving and by blaming the dead car accident passenger for not reading fine print in the owner’s manual.”
When juries award settlements like this, nobody wins. All the money in the world won’t bring Sarah Goodner back, and now the rest of us will have to live with the consequences of such awards. There will be additional warnings printed in boldface type on the sun visor. Car prices will go up, as automakers are forced to revise designs to meet safety standards the engineers never envisioned. Features deemed unsafe, like reclining seats, will become a thing of the past and we’ll all need to sign thirty page disclaimers stating that we’ve read the owner’s manual in its entirety before we can take delivery of a new car. The only people who benefit from cases like this are the personal injury attorneys; isn’t it time we took a little responsibility for our own safety and stopped making the lawyers rich?