Our firm recently settled a case while the jury was deliberating on the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. The Plaintiff, Herlene James-Steele, was a right front passenger in a 1997 Ford Contour. The Contour struck the back of a 1991 Isuzu Trooper that was stopped in the road. The accident itself was uneventful. Each of the vehicles was driven away from the accident scene on its own power. However, the airbag system deployed in the Contour, causing a severe injury to Ms. James-Steele’s right eye. She had numerous surgeries and eventually lost vision in that eye. No other occupants were injured in the accident. The accident was a low speed, underride collision, and had the airbag system not deployed, there would have been no serious injuries. Plaintiff’s expert estimated that the barrier equivalent velocity was in the 6 to 7 mph range. The Ford documents indicated that the airbag should never deploy in an 8 mph or lower barrier impact.
The Plaintiff’s design expert testified that the accident should not have resulted in an air bag deployment. He also was of the opinion that the air bag sensors were wrongfully positioned and wrongfully calibrated, which resulted in this inadvertent air bag deployment. Ms. James-Steele was tragically and unnecessarily permanently blinded by this inadvertent air bag firing in a low speed collision.
The Defendant’s expert, Greg Stephens of Seattle, Wash., claimed that the impact speed was 19 mph. The Plaintiff’s expert, Kelly Kennett, determined that the speed was in the 10 mph impact range. In order to prove the case, we ran three crash tests. The damage pattern in these tests matched almost identically with the 10 mph impact. In order to disprove the Defense reconstruction expert, we ran a 19 mph impact test. The car could not be driven after this test. The transmission was leaking, the radiator was leaking, and the gear shift mechanism was displaced significantly. This third crash test demonstrated that the Ford expert’s calculations were wrong.
Judge Timothy Savage was the trial judge who oversaw the litigation. The plaintiff was represented by Greg Allen and Chris Glover of our firm, along with Phillip Golomb of Philadelphia, Penn. Our St. Croix local counsel was Glenda Cameron. The case tried for a little over a week before it went to the jury and settled for a confidential amount while the jury was deliberating. Greg and his team did a tremendous job for their client.
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