One rainy Sunday afternoon, Arthur and Patricia Rigsby left church and were on their way to eat lunch. They were traveling in their 2008 Buick LaCrosse CXL vehicle which was manufactured by General Motors, LLC. Mr. Rigsby lost control of the vehicle and left the roadway, ultimately hitting a tree on the driver’s side rear door. Mr. Rigsby was properly wearing his seatbelt when the crash occurred.
The vehicle was equipped with side impact roof rail airbags designed specifically to protect the head in a side impact; however, the side impact airbag on the driver’s side failed to deploy in this accident. Interestingly, the side impact airbag did deploy on the passenger side of the vehicle despite no impact occurring on that side of the vehicle. That is most significant.
Mrs. Rigsby survived the accident and was largely uninjured. As a result of the accident, Mr. Rigsby’s head came into contact with the B-pillar, causing him to suffer a severe head injury. He ultimately died from his injuries.
Our investigation of this case revealed that the side impact roof rail airbag system should have deployed in this accident. In fact, the owner’s manual for the vehicle states, “A roof-rail airbag is intended to deploy on the side of the vehicle that is struck.” According to GM’s own internal documents, the Rigsby crash met every criteria needed in order to deploy that airbag. GM runs testing to make sure the vehicle meets their internal criteria and actually deploys an airbag in the crash. However, the only “pole impact test” that GM ran on the 2008 Buick LaCrosse was to the front door, wholly ignoring the fact that rear door impacts were foreseeable.
Thousands of General Motors documents were produced to our lawyers in this case, and several key depositions were taken, including those of GM corporate representatives and expert witnesses. Without question, this was a very strong case of liability. Settlement was reached for a confidential amount during the course of litigation. Chris Glover, a lawyer in our firm’s Product Liability Section, handled the case for our firm and he says he was “honored to represent the Rigsby family.” Mr. Rigsby left behind a wife and three children. Hopefully, General Motors learned a lesson from this case and will make the necessary design changes.
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