Two Marshall cases allege GM produced faulty seatbelts

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Mar. 5, 2008, 7:28am

MARSHALL � Two recent federal lawsuits filed in the Eastern District of Texas accuse GM of producing faulty seatbelts.

June McDaniel Beckham admits that while driving her 2004 Cadillac Deville, she lost control of the vehicle. During the resulting wreck, Beckham claims the vehicle and seat belts failed to protect her.

Beckham and her husband Reggie Beckham filed a product liability suit against General Motors on Feb. 26 in the federal Marshall court of the Eastern District of Texas. The suit alleges General Motors was negligent in the design, manufacture, assembly, and/or testing of the "not reasonably crashworthy" 2004 Cadillac Deville.

The suit states Beckham was properly wearing her seatbelt and cites evidence of that usage by stains on the shoulder and lap belt, habit-usage evidence on the latch, damage streaks on the belt's webbing and a shiny sequin found on the lap belt.

Beckham said because of the failure of the seatbelt, she was injured when she struck the rearview mirror and the visor on the passenger side of the vehicle.

The suit claims the driver's seatbelt was defective, violated federal regulations and principles of crashworthiness by failing to perform as designed, failing to lock, lock timely, or stay locked.

Further, the plaintiffs believe General Motors breached implied warranties of merchantability arguing the vehicle was not in merchantable condition or free from defects.

The suit seeks damages for the Longview resident's medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, impairment, disfigurement, interference with daily activities, and a reduced capacity to enjoy life. Beckham's husband is seeking damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of consortium.

In a similar suit also filed against General Motors this past week, Gainesville resident Gladys Bell alleges her daughter received fatal injuries after a General Motors' vehicle failed to protect her despite being properly restrained.

The accident occurred when Bell was driving a 1993 Chevrolet Lumina with her daughter, Ruthann Bass as passenger. On Feb. 20, 2007, Bell failed to control her vehicle and drove into the back of a pickup truck that was towing an empty heavy-duty flat bed trailer.

Although the police report states the passenger was not wearing her seatbelt, the complaint alleges part of the seatbelt cracked showing evidence that the seatbelt was worn at the time of the accident.

Bell, individually and on behalf of her daughter's minor children, filed suit against General Motors on Feb. 27 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The complaint declares the vehicle was "unreasonably dangerous and defective" and argues the vehicle violated the principles of crashworthiness due to a history of untimely lockup or no lock up with the seatbelt system, a loss of 6 inches of forward excursion, a too stiff belt and not enough elongation.

On behalf of her grandchildren, the plaintiff is seeking damages for mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of consortium.

Individually, Bell is seeking damages for medical expenses, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, impairment, disfigurement, interference with daily activities, reduced capacity to enjoy life and lost wages.

Dallas attorneys E. Todd Tracy and Andrew G. Counts of the Tracy Firm are representing the plaintiffs in both cases.

Judge T. John Ward will preside over the litigations.

Beckham Case No.: 2:08cv00086
Bell Case No.: 2:08cv000087

More News