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Hyundai To Pay $1.8 Million Damages In Reclining Seat Fatality

Posted in General, Hyundai, Newsworthy by Kurt Ernst | April 27th, 2010 | 4 Responses |

2005 Hyundai Tucson

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?

Source: Hyundai Reclining Seat Kills Teen, Carmaker to Pay $1.8M Damages

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4 Responses

  1. Lay-z-boy says:

    …your last paragraph is spot on … there is only one winner here, the shark skin suit lawyer…

  2. Stu Goodner says:

    My wife and I are the ones that brought the design defect lawsuit against Hyundai after the loss of our daughter Sarah.

    I am disappointed that you have chosen to focus the the Attorney that represented us rather than the dangerous design of allowing a seat to recline past the point of the safety belt restraining the passenger. You talk about the money the lawyer may, or by the way may not make but what about Hyundai?

    Hyundai’s lawyers said the approximately 200,000 of these cars were made in a five year period and they sold for $20K each. This means that Hyundai sold $4,000,000,000 to the American public.

    I suggest you go to the National Transportation Safety Board website, NTSB.gov, and search for reclining seats. You will find a letter from the NTSB Chairman to the Head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration dated May, 10, 1988 that identifies this problem specifically and suggests corrections that have largely been ignored.

    We also believe in personal responsibility, but auto manufacturers need to take their part and correct this existing problem with more than 3 warnings in the owner’s manual out of +200 warnings. If this problem had been addressed our daughter Sarah would still be alive today.

    Thank you.

    Stu Goodner

    • Kurt says:

      Mr. Goodner, we may view the issue from two different perspectives, but know that I am profoundly sorry for your loss. You and your family have my condolences.

  3. Stu Goodner says:


    Thank you for your sympathy.

    I believe your perspective is uninformed.

    I will leave you to your blog, and appreciate you allowing me to comment.