Ferguson Law partners Leger and Sparks obtain multi-million dollar settlement in fatal seatbelt failure lawsuit

By David Yates | Jun 3, 2019

BEAUMONT – Ferguson Law Firm partners Jane S. Leger and Mark Sparks have concluded a multi-million-dollar product liability suit by seeking and getting “all the justice that was available” for a local family who lost a husband, father and son.

Lance Wood, a 58-year old husband and father of three, had stopped behind an 18-wheeler at a red light in Lumberton, Texas while on his way to pick up a child from a school function, a firm press release states.

A drunk driver slammed into the rear of Wood’s 2002 Chevrolet 2500 pickup at a high rate of speed. The truck was forced into, and beneath, the 18-wheeler. Although he was wearing his seat belt, Wood did not survive the crash. 

“From the first time I inspected Mr. Wood’s truck, I knew there was something not right about what had happened,” Leger said. “The seat tracks that were supposed to hold Mr. Wood’s seat in place looked like they had failed. His seat belt had come detached. This was more than a car crash.”


Leger  

In addition to making claims against the drunk driver, Leger filed suit against General Motors as the manufacturer of the Chevrolet Silverado and Lear Corporation, the long-time seat supplier for GM. 

“We had that pickup analyzed by experts from across the country and they confirmed our beliefs,” Leger said. “What happened was, when initially struck from the rear, Mr. Wood’s seat broke loose from its floor attachments, causing him to ramp backwards with the non-attached seat.  This rendered his seatbelt useless.  When the second collision occurred with the 18-wheeler ahead of him, Mr. Wood and his seat were then thrown forward. 

“He suffered a fatal blow to his head.”  

Leger initially reached substantial, yet confidential, settlements with General Motors and the drunk driver. The drunk driver, who was a multiple offender, received a life sentence. The remaining defendant – Lear Corporation – refused to accept its responsibility for the seat’s failure and Wood’s violent death, the press release states. 

Instead, Lear issued a shotgun blast denial with panicked finger pointing, says Leger.

“Lear’s defense of blaming everyone else as a litigation strategy to avoid responsibility struck me as unjust, because everyone else responsible for what happened had either accepted responsibility or been held accountable,” Leger said. “Lear’s seat simply should not have failed in this crash. Had it held, Mr. Wood would still be alive today.”

As the case’s trial date of March 25, 2019 loomed, Lear employed another form of finger-pointing: it was the airbag’s failure to deploy that caused Wood’s death, the release states. 

Lear hired an airbag expert to champion that theory. With Sparks preparing to cross-examine Lear’s expert, the case settled, the press release states. 

The expert’s opinion not only ignored decades of engineering and biomechanical science, it was directly contradictory to his own sworn testimony in other cases where he had repeatedly testified that a late deployment in a second collision is more dangerous than no deployment at all, the press release states. 

Both Leger and Sparks poured through volumes of prior testimony by Lear’s expert to find inconsistent testimony.  

“Lear and their expert saw the handwriting on the wall,” Sparks said. “Their expert would have been destroyed if he testified as indicated – destroyed by his own prior testimony we unearthed after several days of research.

“Jane Leger was relentless in her pursuit of justice for this family.” 

With the trial date nearing, Lear also agreed to a confidential and significant settlement.

“We obtained a very considerable outcome for this family,” Leger said. “More importantly, we helped make vehicles safer for all of us. Next time, the seat won’t malfunction and, next time, there won’t be a family who loses a father, husband and son. We were proud to be this family’s attorney. 

“This result continues The Ferguson Law Firm’s mission of seeking the best results for each and every one of their clients.”

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