By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.
On February 29, 2016, a Texas jury rendered a verdict in the amount of $124,496,993.97 after finding that Audi AG and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. were 55 percent at fault in causing crush injuries to the son of the driver when the driver’s seat collapsed on the child. The jury found that the Audi seat contained a manufacturing defect that created a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition because it collapsed in a foreseeable automobile accident. The jury also determined that the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings about the danger and that the manufacturer acted with gross negligence (Rivera v. Cordova, February 29, 2016).
The case arose out of a rear-end collision that occurred while Jesse Rivera Senior was taking his two children to school. Rivera had stopped for a school bus flashing its red lights when his Audi A4 vehicle was struck from behind. The complaint alleged that the driver’s seatback failed and collapsed rearward, allowing head-to-head contact between Rivera and his son. The child suffered catastrophic injuries including severe brain damage, partial paralysis and blindness. The complaint stated causes of action based on design defect, manufacturing defect, negligence, failure to warn, and gross negligence. Specifically, the complaint alleged that Audi purposefully had designed its seats to collapse in a rear-impact collision whereas other automobile manufacturers’ seatback systems were designed to contain front-seat occupants thereby preventing this level of intrusion without relying on the knees of the rear-seat adult occupant. The complaint further stated that safer alternative designs were available and in production before Audi manufactured and sold the Audi A4 driven by Rivera.
The jury’s verdict consisted of the following amounts: $2.5 million for past pain and mental anguish; $32.5 million for the child’s future pain and mental anguish; $1 million for past disfigurement; $2 million for future disfigurement; $2.5 million for past physical impairment; $65 million for future physical impairment; $496,993.97 for past medical expenses; $1.85 million for future medical expenses until the child reaches the age of 18; and $16.65 million for medical expenses the child will occur after he turns 18.
In addition to assigned 55 percent of the fault to Audi, the jury found Rivera 20 percent at fault and assigned 25 percent of the fault to the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident.
Attorneys: Jeff Wigington and Joe Dunn (WigingtonRumley Dunn and Blair) and Fidel Rodriguez and Manuel Maltos (The Law Offices of Fidel Rodriguez, Jr.) for Jesse Rivera, Sr. William N. Allan, IV (Allan, Nava & Glander, PLLC) for Gloria Cordova. Burgain G. Hayes (Law Office of Burgain G. Hayes), Ronald E. Mendoza (Davis Cedillo & Mendoza, Inc.) and Catherine M. Stone (Langley & Banack, Inc.) for Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. and Audi AG.
Companies: Audi AG and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
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