Lawyers in our firm recently settled a case with General Motors (GM) that was set for trial in Dallas County, Alabama. The case involved the deaths of a husband and wife from Selma. Thomas and Betty Lovoy were returning from taking their grandson shopping when a bobtail truck went out of control and skidded sideways in front of them. The Lovoys’ 2008 Chevrolet Malibu struck the rear tandems of the truck. Mr. Lovoy was driving the vehicle and his wife was sitting directly behind him in the rear seat. She was properly wearing the available seatbelt. However, as a result of the frontal barrier-type impact, Mrs. Lovoy’s body moved forward and submarined under the lap portion of the seatbelt, causing her knees to strike the seat occupied by her husband. As a result of the lack of restraint, Mrs. Lovoy’s lower body moved forward and the shoulder harness contacted her neck, causing severe injuries and resulting in her death. When Mrs. Lovoy’s knees struck the back of her husband’s seat, he was crushed as a result of the overload of his seatback.
For years car manufacturers have known of the hazard of submarining and they are supposed to design their seatbelts and seating system in a manner to prevent submarining. The car involved in this case had no rear seatbelt pretensioners, which were available on comparable model vehicles. Car manufacturers have known for a very long time that an unrestrained or improperly restrained rear occupant can slam into the back of the front seat in a frontal collision. The front seat cannot withstand nearly as much force as the seatbelt, which results in the frontal occupant sometimes being squeezed between the seat back and the seatbelt. Lawyers in our firm have successfully handled a number of these type cases over the years.
Mercedes Benz recognized this potential hazard back in 1989 when it wrote to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under the heading, “Important Seat Design.” Mercedes told NHTSA that the purpose of the front seat was to “protect the belted front occupant from overloading due to non-belted rear occupants during frontal collisions.” People who put unrestrained cargo in the back seat of their vehicle need to be warned and made aware of this hazard. It’s also important to have pretensioned seatbelts in the rear seat.
The case, after extensive discovery and extended negotiations, was settled for a confidential amount shortly before the scheduled trial date. Greg Allen and Evan Allen from our law firm, along with Tommy Jones and Rick Williams, who are with the Selma firm of Pitts, Pitts & Williams, handled this case. They did an excellent job and obtained a very good settlement for the surviving family members of the two decedents.
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