The seatback defect attorneys at Bisnar Chase have maintained for years now that the problem of seatback failures amounts to a major safety crisis. Now, auto safety advocates are saying that car manufacturers and regulators have acted with “criminal” negligence in failing to remedy this serious issue that has caused hundreds of deaths and many more catastrophic injuries, according to a CBS Los Angeles news report. Without question, seatback failures have triggered a public health crisis.
Tragic Injuries and Fatalities
According to the Center for Auto Safety, 64 adults and 50 children die each year as a result of collapsing seatbacks. One of Bisnar Chase’s clients, Jaklin Romine, was paralyzed in a 2006 Pasadena crash in which her seat collapsed. Romine is a powerful voice now for victims and consumers calling for change. We secured a $24.7 million verdict for Romine, which stood on appeal by the defendant, Johnson Controls, manufacturer of the seat. Romine’s seatback collapsed during a rear-end collision at a street intersection.
She suffered catastrophic head and spinal cord injuries in spite of wearing a seatbelt because her seat broke on impact, collapsed backward causing her body to submarine rearward under the seatbelt and shoulder restraint. Her head hit the back of the rear passenger seat causing her to suffer the severe injuries that left her a permanent quadriplegic.
Automakers and Regulators Fail to Act
Collapsing seats have been a serious safety issue for decades. But, in all this time, little to nothing has been done to address the issue. CBS talked to Paul Sheridan, who was in charge of the Chrysler minivan safety team at the time of a “60 Minutes” segment on the subject. Sheridan said he called for an internal investigation into seat strength shortly after the segment aired. But the company resisted. In fact, he was told to “retrieve and destroy the meeting minutes.”
Sheridan also said Chrysler deliberately hid evidence of its faulty seats from the public and that both the automaker and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is supposed to be a public safety watchdog, withheld crash footage that clearly showed seats collapsing in rear-end crashes. It didn’t become public until a recent civil trial. The law with regard to seat strength is old and outdated.
Brian Chase, senior partner at Bisnar Chase, says it wouldn’t be difficult for a lawn chair to pass the federal test for seat strength.
“Automakers know that their seatbacks are weak and unstable,” he said. “And yet, they continue to make them and install them in their vehicles putting the public in serious danger. This is yet another example of the auto industry putting profits ahead of people.”