$2,350,000 for In Utero Injury to Child Caused By Defective Seat Belt Design
This was an occupant protection automotive crashworthiness case involving challenges to the design of a seatbelt system when used by an expecting mother in her last trimester of pregnancy. P&K alleged that the seatbelt system was defective and unreasonably dangerous and failed to meet consumers’ expectations for protection for pregnant women P&K also alleged that the warnings associated with the seatbelt system completely failed to advise pregnant women of the known hazards associated with certain seatbelt usage during pregnancy. The victim was a belted front seat passenger in a frontal collision. Her child, born sixty days post-collision, suffered a form of cerebral palsy.
The vehicle’s manufacturer argued that the seatbelt system was not defective, that the accident involved a very high delta–V, and that the mother had not worn the belt properly. Discovery during the case revealed that the seatbelt design engineers were aware that a seatbelt restraint was a hazard for pregnant women, depending on positioning of the occupant and belt and collision forces. The written warnings and pamphlets from the manufacturer never even mentioned the risks associated with the seatbelt restraint despite the manufacturer’s knowledge. The manufacturer also defended that there was no adequate warning that could be crafted and that all of the manufacturers used the same belt system. The case settled following the depositions of the manufacturer’s seatbelt and occupant safety engineers.