15 Year-Old-Boy Dies Due to Defective Seatback
A father, mother and their 15 and 19-year-old sons were all properly seat belted and stopped at a red light when their vehicle was struck from behind by an impaired driver. The impact of the crash caused the driver’s seat to collapse rearward, striking the 15-year-old boy and causing fatal head injuries.
The boy’s father, mother, and older brother sustained minor injuries. The case was referred to Clark Fountain after being turned down by three other law firms. Partners Donald R. Fountain, Mark W. Clark, and Attorney Ben J. Whitman hired a team of experts and brought suit against the vehicle manufacturer and the designer of the seats when they discovered a series of seatback design defects that lead to the young man’s death. Namely, the driver’s seatback was too flexible, which caused it to recline dynamically rearward upon impact. In addition, the trailing edge of the driver’s seatback and the metal structural components in the upper seatback were not properly constructed or padded to prevent serious injury to rear seat occupants.
When the driver’s seatback abruptly reclined into the rear occupant compartment, the pocketed design of the internal horizontal, steel braces in the upper part of the seatback captured and held the young man’s face and head, causing his fatal injuries. The parties were able to reach a confidential settlement that included the return of the vehicle and seat to the manufacturer defendants. Although the settlement allows some degree of closure for our clients, our hope is that the manufacturer will modify the existing design to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again.