Texas Jury Awards $34.4 Million In Car Seat Verdict

Following a five-day trial, a Texas jury determined that Dorel Juvenile’s forward-facing car seat contributed to a young child’s life-altering spinal cord injury, sustained in a 2013 car accident. The complaint was brought by parents Nicole and Cameron Hinson on behalf of their now five-year old child who is paralyzed and will never walk again. Their product liability lawsuit alleged that Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc. was “negligent in marketing” their Safety 1st Summit seat given the inherent risks presented in a frontal collision.

The East Texas family was awarded $24.4 million as compensation for their child’s permanent injuries and disability, which accounts for his medical expenses, disfigurement, mental anguish, physical impairment, and loss of future earnings. The panel, after just five minutes of deliberations, also awarded the Hinson family $10 million in punitive damages against Dorel Juvenile, a global manufacturer of child safety seats.

Dorel Juvenile loses car seat trial

The product liability lawsuit was filed against the defendant after their child was partially paralyzed during a car crash when he was 20 months old. Dorel Juvenile was accused of failing to adequately warn consumers about the possible risks posed to toddlers under the age of 2 when placed in a forward-facing car seat, rather than a rear-facing model. The case was tried in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, where an 8-member jury rendered two separate verdicts.

$34.4 million judgement includes punitive damages

The first $24.4 million judgement was handed down after three hours of deliberation. For the defendant’s “gross negligence,” the panel unanimously decided that a separate punitive award of $10 million should be rendered. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are conferred to punish the defendant and deter them from committing similar conduct in the future.

The plaintiffs argued that Dorel “had actual, subjective awareness of the risk but proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.”

During the trial, lead counsel for the Hinson family contended that “Dorel knew that as early as 2009 that the lead health care agency said (for) toddlers under age 2, it’s dangerous to have them in a forward-facing seat.” He further argued that Dorel failed to update consumer warnings regarding the Safety 1st Summit car seat.

Dangers of forward-facing car seats for young children

Dorel was sued on counts of negligence, marketing defect and failure to warn, and was forced to defend claims that it knew or should have known of a potential risk of serious harm to young children resulting from being placed in a forward- facing car seat.

In the closing arguments, counsel for the plaintiffs reminded jurors that the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that, in the event of an accident, forward-facing seats presented risks of brain injuries, spinal cord injury and death in children under two. Jurors ultimately found that Dorel bore 80 percent responsibility for the boy’s spinal cord injuries.

National product liability attorneys

Manufacturers of car seats and other consumer products must warn the public about possible risks and hazards when marketing their goods. While this verdict can never change the life-altering injuries suffered by the plaintiff’s child, it does provide the financial resources necessary to care for their son, who will need extensive medical care for the remainder of his life.

The Sanders Firm product liability lawyers represent consumers who have been harmed by products that were defectively manufactured or marketed. If you or a loved one has been affected by a dangerous or negligently marketed product, you may be eligible for compensation.

To discuss your options for legal recourse, call us today for a free consultation at 1-800-INJURED. Resources

  1. Dorel.com, Dorel Plans Vigorous Appeal of U.S. Car Seat Judgment https://www.dorel.com/eng/News/Details/271-Dorel-Plans-Vigorous-Appeal-of-U.S.-Car-Seat-Judgment
  2. Bloomberg BNA, Dorel to Appeal $34M Award to Paralyzed Child, https://www.bna.com/dorel-appeal-34m-n57982075787/