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Jury Awards $242 Million To Two Children Hurt By Lexus Defect

Parents spend nearly every waking moment worrying about the safety of their children, even when they aren’t with them. When it comes to car safety, parents spend hours agonizing over the right car seat, wondering which one will best protect their child in the event of an accident. The last thing that any parent anticipates is that it will be the car which actually causes the most harm.

Toyota Ordered To Pay $242 Million For Defective Seats

In September 2016, the parents of a then 5-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy were driving with their children in their 2002 Lexus ES300. Suddenly the family was struck by another driver from behind, causing severe damage to the seat with a baby in it

Despite being properly secured by car seats and seatbelts, both children sustained serious head trauma and were rushed to the hospital. Their injuries caused damage to their brains which may impact them for the rest of their lives.

A few days after the accident their father visited the wreckage of his car to gather personal items and noticed something odd - both of the front seats of the car had been pushed back into the back, almost touching the back seats where the children had been sitting. This was especially odd since it was a rear-end accident.

After doing some research and speaking with an experienced attorney, the parents decided to file a lawsuit against Toyota, alleging that a defect caused the front seats to move unusually far into the back of the car upon impact and that it was this defect which injured their children, not the accident.

Toyota Fights Defect Allegations

Toyota denied the allegations, stating that while they sympathized with the accident victims, they believed that the injuries sustained were directly related to the accident, not to the design of the car.

After a lengthy trial, a jury determined that a defect did, in fact, exist in the car and that Toyota was actually aware of the issue and failed to fix it. The jury then awarded $144 million in punitive damages and $92 million to compensate the children for their past and future medical care, physical impairment and mental trauma, and other damages.

Why Would A Jury Award Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are awarded when a judge or jury determines that not only is the defendant at fault but that they have knowingly participated in an activity that could have caused others harm or that they choose to act negligently. Essentially, it’s a way of punishing the defendant and a warning that they should avoid participating in similar behavior in the car with possible defects

For example, in one of Banville Law's past premises liability cases, a tenant notified their landlord on several occasions that the lock on their door was broken and needed to be fixed. The landlord chose to ignore their tenant. A few weeks later, the tenant was sexually assaulted and robbed by a man who was able to gain entry into their home because of the broken lock.

After providing evidence that the landlord had not only known about the lock but also had ample time to fix it, the jury awarded punitive damages to punish the landlord for his negligence.

Car Defects Are More Common Than Auto Companies Want To Admit

It seems like a day can’t go by without hearing about a recall on a car. With every model and redesign, the designers, manufacturers, and car companies create automobiles that have safety defects. Before releasing a car, van, or truck onto the market, these companies are required to perform crash tests to find a defect and fix it so that anyone who is in the car is kept safe in the event of an accident. However, of defects are entirely missed or the company decides that it will be less expensive to ignore the issue.

In the past, thousands have been able to recover compensation for injuries caused by an auto defect and while compensation may not be able to take away the physical and emotional pain that they have endured, it can provide them with the care that they need.

How Is An Award Determined?

There are two ways through which a plaintiff can obtain compensation.

  1. Settlement: When a plaintiff agrees to settle, they accept a specific amount from the defendant. This way, the plaintiff knows exactly how much they will receive, can avoid going to trial, and typically funds are received within 30 days. Often, the amount agreed upon can be negotiated.
  2. An Award: At the end of a trial a judge/jury can award the plaintiff with compensation. There is no exact way to determine how much may be awarded, however, the plaintiff’s losses will be taken into account when calculating an award.

There is no right or wrong way to obtain compensation - our lawyers will present all options and discuss the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, each client must decide what is best in their situation.

Laurence P. Banville
Date Published: August 27, 2018
Laurence P. Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law. As an experienced personal injury attorney, Mr. Banville helps clients recover compensation from those responsible for his clients' injuries. Our firm is located in New York City, serving clients from the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
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