A Dallas car accident that left a young woman a paraplegic led her to sue carmaker Honda over poorly designed seatbelts. Last week a Texas jury that heard the case awarded her $37.6 million in damages. The case was brought by 27-year-old Sarah Milburn, who was riding in the back seat of a Honda Odyssey driven by an Uber driver.
Sarah had taken the time to use the vehicle’s seatbelt, but when her driver ran a red light they were struck by a pickup truck: the mini-van rolled onto its side and Sarah’s neck was broken. She is now restricted to a wheelchair. Her lawsuit blamed the poor design of the seat belts for her injuries.
According to testimony submitted at trial, when the Dallas car accident took place, Milburn was seated in the vehicle’s third row and had used a two-part seat belt system that testing proved was extremely difficult for people to understand or activate properly.
Dallas Car Accident Reveals Design Default of Honda Seatbelt System
An investigator working on behalf of the Dallas car accident victim analyzed how readily people who were unfamiliar with the seatbelt design figured out how to use it, and found that less than ten percent used it properly.
The design required passengers to pull a shoulder strap that hangs from the vehicle’s ceiling, attach it to the seat, and only after attaching it could the belt be buckled across the hips. The investigator presented evidence that 50 out of 53 people asked to use the seat belt engaged it incorrectly and in a way that “was actually more dangerous than having no seat belt at all.”
Though Honda argued that the seat belt design meets federal standards and that had Ms. Milburn been using it correctly she would not have been hurt, the jury agreed that the injuries that Ms. Milburn suffered in the Dallas car accident were directly attributable to their faulty design.