In April, a federal jury in Texas found that Hyundai Motor Company’s reclining seat caused the death of a passenger in a single car accident of a 2005 Hyundai Tucson Sport Utility Vehicle. Todd Tracy, a very good lawyer from Dallas, has been warning drivers for decades that reclining seats can kill or cause severe injury to passengers in car accidents. Todd, who handled the case for the family of Sarah Goodner, made this observation:
The automobile industry and auto dealerships advertise reclining seats as an inexpensive luxury accessory for passenger comfort on the road and highway. They tell car buyers that the family can lay back, rest, and even sleep. But for dozens of years there’s been growing evidence that reclining seats kill or cause severe injury such as paralysis in car accidents.
Sarah Goodner, who was 19-years-old, was killed in a 2007 car accident when she was ejected from the reclined seat of the Hyundai Tucson SUV. Sarah was taking a nap in the front passenger reclining seat when she was thrown out of the car when it rolled over on a West Texas highway. The federal jury returned a $1.8 million verdict against Hyundai for using a defective reclining seat system. Evidence presented during the trial showed that the lap seat belt was supposed to provide the primary safety protection, but it failed to prevent the young victim from sliding out from under the lap seat belt when the seat was fully reclined. Sarah was wearing the seat belt lap and shoulder restraint.
Hyundai told the jury that its reclining seat was only supposed to be used when the car was not moving. In fact, the carmaker blamed Sarah for not reading the fine print in the owner’s manual. Hyundai has failed to use available accident safety technology that would prevent reclining seats from being tilted back at more than a 45-degree angle. A life could have been saved if Hyundai had used a system currently used by another automobile company that automatically returns a reclining seat to the upright position in the event of a car accident. Todd did a very good job for Sarah’s family and should be commended for his hard work and efforts to bring a serious safety defect to the public’s attention.
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