Dorel Car Seat Lawsuit Results in $34M Verdict After Child Paralyzed
A Texas jury has awarded $34.4 million in damages over spinal cord injuries suffered by a toddler placed in a forward-facing Dorel car set, including $10 million in punitive damages awarded against the manufacturer of the child safety equipment due to gross negligence.
The verdict stems from a product liability complaint (PDF) filed last year by Nicole and Cameron Hinson, on behalf of Nicole Hinson’s son, Cayden, who was partially paralyzed in May 2013, when he was 20 months old. The lawsuit accused Dorel Juvenile Group of failing to warn about risks associated with placing a child under the age of two in a forward facing Dorel Safety 1st Summit Deluxe car seat.
At the time of the crash, Cayden was strapped into the Dorel safety seat facing forward in the back seat. Despite the safety restraint, the child suffered a brain injury and a spinal cord injury during the accident, and will never walk again under his own power, according to evidence presented at trial.
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“Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc. was negligent in marketing the subject car seat for use with children (Cayden’s) age given the medical risks presented in a severe frontal collision,” the lawsuit stated. “Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc. was also negligent in failing to adequately warn consumers and customers of the risks posed to young children positioned in a forward facing car seat as opposed to a rear-facing car seat.”
According to internal documents from Dorel that were presented during the trial, the company knew as early as 2009 that forward-facing car seats were not safe for children under the age of 2, yet failed to adequately warn consumers. Prior to that date, the American Academy of Pediatrics had specifically highlighted the risk of spinal and brain injuries from forward facing car seats during auto accidents.
On June 17, a federal jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas determined that Dorel failed to provide adequate warning and was guilty of negligence and gross negligence, bearing 80% responsibility for the boy’s injuries. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the frontal collision, Stacey Tilley, was deemed 20% responsible.
The lawsuit also accused Wal-Mart Stores of some responsibility, for reportedly installing two new tires on Tilly’s vehicle incorrectly, however the jury disagreed.
The jury awarded the family $24.4 million in compensatory damages, and ordered Dorel pay another $10 million in punitive damages for gross negligence.
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