Case Study #8:


Aaronson Rappaport defeats a $12.8-million defective seat belt claim


Client: 
A major domestic automobile manufacturer

 

Type of Case:  Alleged seat belt failure

 

Background:  Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck while driving on a NYC expressway. Plaintiff claimed that the seat belt’s emergency locking retractor failed to engage, causing his face to strike the steering wheel, windshield and headliner, resulting in a serious eye injury with partial blindness.

 

Suit Filed:  Lawsuit was brought by plaintiff in New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County, a notorious plaintiff’s jurisdiction.

 

Client’s Concern:  The severity of plaintiff’s eye injury jeopardized his career as a cameraman. Client was rightly concerned about a potentially high award from a Bronx jury.

 

Action Strategy:  Aaronson Rappaport attacked plaintiff’s case on two fronts: 

 

1) Seat belt. The firm proved that the seat belt was not defective and brought into question whether the driver was wearing a seat belt at all. In support of this position, the defendants entered into evidence a videotape that showed an actual crash test, conducted under conditions nearly identical to those alleged by plaintiff. The evidence showed that the crash test dummy was restrained – and that there was no design defect of the seatbelt.

 

2) Eye Injury. Aaronson Rappaport also proved that plaintiff’s alleged eye injury was not the result of the accident. In support of this, Aaronson Rappaport produced an expert ophthalmologist who testified that plaintiff’s physical complaints and use of magnifying glass during trial were inconsistent and contrary to the claimed diagnosis. On cross-examination, plaintiff’s treating physician was forced to agree.


Result:  The jury returned a defense verdict in 40 minutes, finding that plaintiff’s seat belt was not defective. In doing so, they rejected plaintiff’s request of $12.8 million for past and future pain and suffering and lost wages.