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ARTICLE ID 6398

Automotive products liability - Allegedly defective seat belt system - Retractor of seat belt fails in auto accident, allowing plaintiff to strike windshield - Closed head injury - Serious spinal cord injuries.

Wayne County, Michigan

This action arose out of an motor vehicle accident in which the female plaintiff suffered severe injuries. The plaintiff alleged that her injuries occurred as a result of a failure in the seat belt retractor mechanism to properly lock her seat belt in place upon impact. The plaintiff brought suit against the manufacturer of the ________ Pontiac Sunbird in which she was riding as a passenger at the time of the accident, alleging negligent design and breach of implied warranty.

The evidence indicated that the plaintiff was riding as a passenger in the Pontiac Sunbird when the Sunbird struck a ________ Ford Tempo. The plaintiff struck her head on the upper portion of the passenger side windshield during the accident sequence. The plaintiff alleged that the retractor in the shoulder belt failed to engage, allowing her to strike the windshield and resulting in serious and permanent spinal cord injuries as well as a closed head injury. The plaintiff contended that the seat belt retractor failure was due to defective design and manufacturing of the system, permitting such failure to occur upon impact.

The defendant General Motors contended that the seat belt was not p 7 3 defective, that the plaintiff was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the accident, and that her injuries were not caused by the subject accident, but rather, by an accident which occurred one year later. The defendant maintained that the plaintiff was not wearing her lap belt at the time of the accident, an important part of the restraint system. The defendant emphasized a safety feature incorporated in the lap portion of the seat belt that would have held the plaintiff in her seat and would not have allowed her to strike the windshield had she been wearing it.

The jury found for the defendant.

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