Our firm tried a product liability case last month involving a seat belt system in a passenger car that failed in a single vehicle rollover. The case, filed in an Alabama state court, was against the car manufacturer and the supplier of the seat belts. Our clients were a husband and wife whose lives were changed forever as a result of this incident, which occurred in 2004. The husband, who was 34 years old at the time of his injury, is now a permanent quadriplegic. He will require constant care and attention for the rest of his life. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a low speed rollover that should have resulted, at the very worst, in only bruises and soreness. But, a catastrophic failure of the seat belt system occurred. As a result the man’s head struck the inside of the car between the A and B pillars at a point near the edge of the visor. Fortunately, there was an eyewitness to the accident who testified at trial. The evidence proved that our client lost control of his vehicle at an intersection when he got into loose gravel on the road. The car fishtailed, went out of control, and rolled over, winding up on its wheels. The damage to the car was very minimal.
Our experts in the case were: Bryant Buckner (accident reconstruction), Ken Brown (design), Dr. Joe Burton (biomechanics and occupant kinematics), Kathy Willard (life care planner), and Dr. Bob Hebert (economist). The medical testimony in the case was very strong, and Dr. Christina Oelson from Spain Rehab Hospital, who approved the life care plan in its entirety, did a great job in her testimony. A local nurse, Mrs. Melissa Huffman, who had supervised home heath care for our client, did as good a job in describing how the injury and impairment affected our client in every aspect of his life as I have ever seen. Her testimony was powerful and most effective. In fact, the defendants’ lawyers couldn’t even cross-examine Mrs. Huffman.
After 7 days of trial, the case was finally settled. Strict confidentiality was requested by the defendants, which we agreed to. Therefore, we cannot mention the amount of the settlement, the names of the defendants, or the make and model of the car involved. Although I don’t like that sort of thing, we had no choice but to agree to those conditions in this case. Greg Allen was the lead lawyer for our firm and as usual did a tremendous job in pretrial discovery and preparation for trial. Kendall Dunson and I were also involved in the trial, along with Bill Gamble, a very good lawyer from Selma. This case is a good example of why the jury system is so important.
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