Please E-mail suggested additions, comments and/or corrections to Kent@MoreLaw.Com.
Judge: Not available
Court: District Court, Harrison County, Texas
Defendant's Attorney: Not Available
Description: Marshall, Texas personal injury lawyer represented Plainitff, who sued Defendant on a product liability theory.
A jury in Marshall, Texas reached two separate verdicts totaling $34.4 million in a case in which a toddler was permanently paralyzed after being seated in a Dorel Juvenile Inc. Safety 1st Summit car seat during a May 2013 auto accident. The child’s mother, Nicole Hinson, sued Dorel Juvenile for failing to warn consumers of potential risks associated with their forward-facing car seats for children under the age of two.
Following the completion of the five-day trial, a jury rendered two verdicts: the first of which found Dorel 80% responsible for the child’s injuries and the negligent driver, Stacy Tilley, 20% responsible. The Hinsons were awarded $24.4 million as financial compensation for their child’s injuries, including mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of earning capacity, physical impairment, and medical expenses. The jury unanimously agreed on a second verdict of $10 million in punitive damages to be paid by Dorel Juvenile after just five minutes of deliberations.
Internal documents from Dorel Juvenile show that the company was aware that forward-facing seats were unsafe for children under the age of two. Further, the American Academy of Pediatrics had warned that these forward-facing car seats could cause harm to the spinal cord, paralysis, brain injuries, and/or death in the event of an accident and that children should remain in rear-facing car seats until they are at least two or they exceed the height and weight limits for the car seat.
Said Jeff Embry, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, “Dorel knew that as early as 2009 that the lead health care agency said (for) toddlers under age 2, it’s dangerous to have them in a forward-facing seat.” Embry also stated that Dorel Juvenile erred by not updating the consumer warnings for the Safety 1st Summit car seat.
Furthermore, the car seat manufacturer’s expert witness, Jeya Padmanaban, a statistician and product safety expert, testified that forward-facing seats are far more safe than rear-facing seats for one-year olds, which conflicts with the verbiage on Dorel Juvenile’s own website. “All the doctors, researchers, and pediatricians say children face more danger forward-facing,” Embry said. “Now, even Dorel says that. Padmanaban said, ‘No, they’re five times safer forward-facing.’ That makes no sense.”
Despite the verdict and massive financial penalties, Dorel Juvenile maintains that the Safety 1st Summit car seat is safe and effective. The lead defense attorney, Jonathan Judge stated that the car seat “meets standards overwhelmingly. We have the perfect safety record for this seat. No other child has ever suffered any injury of any kind in this seat.”
Outcome: Plaintiff's verdict for #34 million.