By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.
A federal jury in Texas awarded a minor child and his family $24,438,000 in compensatory damages, and $10 million in punitive damages, as a result of spinal cord and brain injuries sustained by the child who had been buckled into a forward-facing car seat at the time the vehicle in which he was riding was involved in a front-end collision. The verdict against Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc., the manufacturer of the car seat, was based on the jury’s finding that the warnings and instructions accompanying the car seat were defective (Hinson v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc., June 17, 2016).
The minor child had been buckled into a Safety 1st Summit forward facing car seat position behind the front passenger seat when another vehicle crossed the center line and impacted the vehicle in which he and his parents were riding. As a result of the collision, the minor received a spinal cord injury at the T11-T12 level and he suffered head and face injuries that left him with a brain injury. As a result of his injuries, the child will never walk again.
The parents filed a negligence and strict products liability action against Dorel alleging that the company had been both negligent in marketing the car sear for use with children who were their child’s age and in failing to warn consumers of the risks posed to young children in a forward-facing car seat as opposed to a rear-facing car seat. The parents further alleged that the car seat had been defectively marketed because Dorel knew or should have known of the potential risk of enhanced and serious injury to very young children from being positioned in the forward-facing seat but had marketed the car seat without adequate warning of the danger or instructions for its safe use. The complaint also contained a count for gross negligence.
Jury verdict. The jury found that there was a defect in the warnings or instructions given by Dorel and that the defect was a producing cause of the minor’s injuries. The jury also determined that Dorel was negligent in warning or instructing consumers regarding the use of the car seat and that the company’s negligence was a proximate cause of the minor’s injuries.
The jury’s $24 million compensatory damages award was broken down as follows:
- $100,00 for the minor’s past physical pain and mental anguish;
- $4,000,000 for future physical pain and mental anguish;
- $15,00 for loss of the minor’s earning capacity from the time of trial until he reaches 18 years of age;
- $1,200,000 for loss of earning capacity after he reaches 18;
- $100,000 for the minor’s past disfigurement;
- $3,000,000 for the minor’s future disfigurement;
- $100,000 for the minor’s past physical impairment;
- $3,000,000 for the minor’s future physical impairment;
- $73,000 for the minor’s past medical care expenses;
- $350,000 for the minor’s future medical care expenses until her reaches 18 years of age; and $12,500,000 for the medical expenses he will incur after the age of 18.
Attorneys: George Philip Cowden (Hossley & Embry LLP) for Nicole Hinson. Anthony Alan Avey (Avey & Associates, PLLC) and Jonathan Judge (Schiff Hardin LLP) for Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc.
Companies: Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc.
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