GM sued over death allegedly caused by defective seat belts

Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 15, 2009, 9:35am

A wrongful death suit has been filed against General Motors by a local woman who alleges her daughter's death was caused by GM's defective seat belts.

Patricia Seals, as wrongful death beneficiary and representative of the estate of her daughter Karen Beth Seals, is seeking a minimum of $75,000 from GM in the suit she filed April 7 in the Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the complaint, Karen Seals was the front seat passenger in a 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier when the vehicle was involved in a collision on June 13, 2008.

Karen Seals was using the available seat belt restraint, the suit states, but during the collision the "webbing of the seat belt restraint system ripped," leaving Karen unrestrained. The plaintiff alleges that the seat belt failure was the proximate cause of the serious injuries from which Karen Seals died.

The plaintiff brings strict liability claims and negligence claims on behalf of Karen Seals.

"Defendant's defective products and their conduct were proximate and/or producing causes of the death of Karen Beth Seals and all damages to Plaintiff set forth herein," the complaint states.

The suit alleges that the vehicle, including its restraint system, was not properly designed to offer appropriate occupant protection or restraint in foreseeable crashes. Additionally, GM negligently failed to test the Cavalier and its components to ensure that appropriate occupant protections were afforded those who would occupy the vehicle.

"The death of Karen Beth Seals and the damages suffered by Plaintiff were proximately caused by the negligence of Defendant in so designing, manufacturing, assembling, selling and testing or failing to test the Cavalier involved in the incident �," the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the wrong done by GM in introducing a defective product into the stream of commerce and continuing to market the product after learning of its potential for serious injury or death constitutes gross negligence, malice and callous disregard for the law. The plaintiff also asserts breach of implied warranties of merchantability and fitness.

Patricia Seals seeks compensation for termination of the parent-child relationship, emotional pain and suffering in the past and future, medical expenses, funeral costs, lost earnings and earnings and loss of household services. On behalf of the Karen Seals, compensation is sought for the suffering she endured from the time of the collision to her death.

"It is not possible for Plaintiff to plead to the exact amounts of these damages at this time, but they clearly exceed $75,000 and the minimal jurisdiction of this court," the suit states.

The plaintiff is represented by Chad D. Points of Denena & Points PC in Houston.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Ron Clark and referred to Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines.

Case No. 1:09-cv-296-RC-ESH

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