A Dallas County jury has awarded $42 million to a couple who was trapped in their burning car after shoddy repair work done by a local collision center. According to the Dallas Morning News, the prior owner of the vehicle, a Honda Fit, had approached John Eagle Collision Center to fix their vehicle roof for hail damage. The lawyer in the federal lawsuit said the body shop chose to use a cheaper, untested repair method when fixing the roof. Instead of welding the roof, which is the recommended approach by the manufacturer, the body shop used a glue-like adhesive.
Severe Burns and Crushing Injuries
So when Matthew and Marcia Seebachan were involved in a fiery crash, they became trapped in the vehicle and suffered major burns and crushing injuries because they could not be extricated in time. The said accident occurred on December 21, 2013 when the Seebachans were traveling to spend Christmas with family in the Texas Hill Country.
At the time, a pickup truck hydroplaned and struck their Honda Fit head on. The car caught fire and the roof collapsed. The couple had crushing injuries and Matthew was severely burned on his lower legs and feet before being extricated from the vehicle. Marcia also had to be extricated through the passenger-side window because of the glued-on roof.
Shoddy Repair Work
The plaintiffs’ attorney said this jury verdict sends out a strong message to repair shops: Fix the vehicle properly or pay the price. He said he hopes this verdict triggers an industry-wide change. The plaintiffs also filed a related lawsuit against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company alleging that the insurance company bullied the body shop into using the lower-cost approach. That lawsuit against the insurance company only seeks $1 in damages, the attorney says, “just to send a message.”
These lawsuits claim that the repair work made the car structurally unsound. The Seebachans had purchased the 2010 Honda car four months before their accident. They only discovered later that the car’s roof had been glued rather than welded. The repairs were not listed in the car’s vehicle history report either.
We are pleased that the civil justice system worked for this couple, who were shortchanged not just by the body shop and the insurance company, but also a flawed reporting system where they had no idea about the shoddy repairs at the time of their vehicle purchase. We hope this lawsuit and the jury’s verdict effects a systemic change that will help keep consumers safe from these types of dangers.