Case details

Seat belt system properly functioned as designed: defense





Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, cognition, mental, psychological, traumatic brain injury
On April 21, 2019, plaintiff Kamiya Perry, 23, was a front seat passenger in a 2015 Kia Forte, which her brother was driving. However, as her brother attempted to make a U-turn, he did not anticipate a vehicle traveling in the left lane beside them. As a result, the vehicle in the left lane struck Perry’s driver side door at 50 mph, causing Perry’s car to roll over onto its roof. Perry’s vehicle then continued to slide across the pavement on its roof until it came to a stop. Perry claimed that her head struck the interior of her car, knocking her unconscious. Perry sued the maker of the vehicle her brother was driving, Kia Motors America Inc. Perry alleged that Kia Motors defectively designed and manufactured the subject car. Perry claimed that the vehicle’s seat belt system failed to deploy and keep her in her seat. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that seat belts include a pretensioner, which is a device designed to pull a seat belt tight in an accident. However, counsel argued that the pretensioner in the subject Kia’s seat belt system on the passenger side did not deploy, as it should have in the accident. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the seat belt’s failure to tighten in the crash caused Perry’s head to strike the vehicle’s roof when it rolled over. Counsel argued that Kia Motors knew about the design defect in the seat belt system and knew that the defect posed a risk in far side impacts, like the one in the subject accident, but chose to ignore the risk while making no other accommodation for far side occupants, like Perry. Defense counsel argued that the subject vehicle’s seat belts met all applicable federal safety standards and that a pretensioner of any kind would not have provided any meaningful protection to Perry. Specifically, counsel contended that research data showed that pretensioners did not offer any measurable protection to front-seat passengers, such as Perry, who encounter a far side lateral impact at an impact angle comparable to the subject accident. Defense counsel argued that, based on medical evidence and testimony from the defense’s biomechanical expert, who was also a practicing emergency room doctor, Perry’s brain injury was the result of rotational forces applied laterally to the head, rather than any direct impact to the skull. Counsel further argued that there was little or no evidence of any injurious head contact at all and that any head contact Perry might have had was likely the result of Perry’s head having light contact with the driver’s shoulder or seat, rather than striking the roof. In addition, defense counsel contended that Kia Motors designed the seat belts in the subject vehicle to have locking mechanisms, separate from pretensioners, which locked and gave Perry full protection from the rollover event. Counsel argued that the locking mechanisms in the Kia’s seat belts, as well as Perry’s lateral head contact, demonstrated that the Kia’s seat belt system functioned as designed and that Perry’s unfortunate injury was not in any way caused by the Kia’s safety systems., Perry claimed she sustained blunt force trauma to her heard, rendering her unconscious. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where she ultimately regained consciousness. Perry claimed she suffered a traumatic brain injury, which left her with cognitive impairment, memory issues and personality changes. She alleged that as a result, she will require 24/7 care for the rest of her life. Prior to the accident, Perry intended to pursue a career in music. However, she claimed her condition puts that career in question. Perry sought recovery of past and future medical costs, and damages for her past and future pain and suffering. According to defense counsel, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Perry $104 million in total damages.
Superior Court of Orange County, Orange, CA

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