Negligent or defective restraints system aka seat belt (Nissan Motor Company, LTD vs. Amanda Maddox. Pub. COA 8/30/2013)

Seat Belt claim:

Negligent restraint system.
Nissan Motor Company, LTD  vs. Amanda Maddox
Published.  8/30/2013.  Lincoln County (J. Tapp).

COMBS, JUDGE: Nissan Motor Company, Ltd., and Nissan North America, Inc., (collectively, “Nissan”) appeal the judgment of the Lincoln Circuit Court which held them liable for injuries sustained by Amanda Maddox (now Gifford). After our review, we affirm.

Amanda asked the jury to determine that Nissan had designed the Pathfinder to provide maximum protection for the 50th percentile dummy while neglecting the safety of larger occupants. She claimed that Nissan merely wanted to achieve the five-star rating in order to be more appealing to consumers. She also pointed out that while Nissan consistently touted the safety of the load limiter in the seatbelt, the back seatbelts do not have load limiters, and crash tests are not performed on back seat occupants. Amanda also cited weaknesses in the testimony of Nissan’s witnesses, such as a lack of analysis of her collapsed seat. After our review of the full record and pertinent authorities, we are not persuaded that the verdict was unsupported by the evidence or that it was a result of passion. Thus, we affirm the denial of the motion for a directed verdict.

Plaintiffs in a products liability action may plead negligence claims based on one of three theories: 1) design defect; 2) manufacturing defect; or 3) failure to warn. Clark v. Hauck Mfg. Co., 910 S.W.2d 247, 251 (Ky. 1995). Amanda presented both a failure-to-warn theory and a design-defect claim. Although the jury needed to find against Nissan according to only one theory in order to find it liable, it determined that Nissan was liable under both theories. See Martin v. Ohio County Hospital Corp., 295 S.W.3d 104, 115-16 (Ky. 2009).

Three elements are necessary to prove a crashworthiness claim:

(1) an alternative safer design, practical under the circumstances;

(2) proof of what injuries, if any, would have resulted had the alternative, safer design been used; and

(3) some method of establishing the extent of enhanced injuries attributable to the defective design.

Toyota Motor Corp. v. Gregory, 136 S.W.3d 35, 41 (Ky. 2004).