Car seat manufacturer sued for infant's death in auto crash

By Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau | Nov 29, 2007

MARSHALL -- In an attempt to take the family to Louisiana for the 2006 Thanksgiving holiday, Amanda and Steve Espinosa rented a 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer from an Oklahoma Enterprise Leasing Company.

Accustomed to working the night shift as a Bar-S-Foods' sanitation worker, Steve chose to drive at night to avoid disrupting his routine schedule. Three hours into the evening trip, the family stopped to feed their baby, buy snacks and gas. The Espinosas were back on the road again at midnight on Nov. 22, 2006.

Shortly after leaving the gas station in Denton County, Texas, a westbound vehicle swerved and crossed into the Espinosas' lane. Seeing the swerving vehicle, Steve slowed and veered onto the shoulder. Despite Steve's best efforts, the oncoming car hit the family's Trailblazer. The force of the collision caused the family's rented vehicle to spin into a grassy ditch and to roll onto the driver's side.

Although Steve was wearing his seatbelt and his baby daughter was secured in a Graco infant seat, both suffered fatal injuries. The other daughter and the mother survived the collision.

Alleging product liability, individually and as estate representative, Amanda Espinosa filed suit against Graco Children's Products, Inc., Newell Rubbermaid, Inc., General Motors Corporation, Enterprise Leasing Company-Southwest, Kyle and Tonya Rountree on Nov. 27 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The plaintiff believes the infant seat designed and manufactured by Graco and/or Newell was negligently designed and defective by not providing adequate neck and back support. The complaint states the infant seat did not conform to other similar infant restraint designs and specifications and violated recognized and accepted industry standards.

Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants breached the express warranty that "this infant restraint conforms to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircrafts."

Amanda Espinosa also contends the GMC-manufactured Chevrolet Trailblazer was negligently and defectively designed by "failing to conform to product design and specifications of other similar vehicles."

She specifically states the vehicle was defective due to the failure of the air bags to deploy at the time of the accident. GMC should have known the vehicle was "unreasonably dangerous beyond the contemplation of the average user."

According to the complaint, the plaintiff is attempting to hold Enterprise responsible for her families' fatal injuries by stating the company breached their duty to the family by not providing them with a safe vehicle that was free from defects.

Also being sued for negligence is the driver of the oncoming vehicle, Kyle Rountree, who fell asleep, swerved, and collided into the Espinosas' vehicle. The plaintiff is also holding Tonya Rountree responsible for negligent entrustment, stating she should not have entrusted her vehicle to an incompetent and/or reckless driver.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for medical expenses, mental anguish, pain, personal injuries, torment, suffering, lost earnings, lost earning capacity, loss of support, companionship, consortium, household services, and inheritance, attorney fees and court costs.

"Plaintiff also seeks punitive or exemplary damages in an amount within the discretion of the jury sufficient to deter and punish Defendants."

Defendants have not responded to the allegations.

Jury trial is demanded. Judge T. John Ward will preside.

Case No.: 2:07cv517

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