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January 09 2006 - GM Air Bag Lawsuit to be Reviewed
The Mississippi Supreme Court has agreed to determine if a couple’s failure to provide expert testimony on air bags doomed their lawsuit against General Motors for damages from a 1997 accident.
The state Court of Appeals, in a 5-4 decision last year, upheld a Marion County judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed in 2000 against GM by Hoyt and Hilda Forbes. The Forbeses claimed the air bag in their 1992 Oldsmobile did not deploy as GM had represented. Sustaining the Forbeses’ claim, the opinion of the minority said it was obvious that an airbag that doesn’t properly deploy is unreasonably dangerous.
“GM should have been required to go forward with its case to refute this evidence, if indeed it could have,” the dissenting opinion said. “It seems quite obvious that an air bag which fails to inflate or deploy when it is supposed to is unreasonably dangerous not because it will cause injury, but because of its failure to operate so as to prevent injury.”
Circuit Judge R.I. Prichard III in 2003 dismissed the lawsuit after the plaintiffs concluded their case. He said the couple failed to prove that the air bag did not perform as it was supposed to.
The Forbeses appealed. The Court of Appeals sided with Prichard. Hilda Forbes was injured when her car collided with another vehicle in Marion County and the air bag did not inflate on impact.
The Mississippi high court decided Thursday that it would hear the Forbeses appeal.
The Appeals Court said the Forbeses “offered no expert testimony to say that the air bag should have deployed in Mrs. Forbes’ collision.” The Court also said testimony from a police investigator and a body shop mechanic were not enough to support a claim that the collision “was hard enough” to make the air bag deploy.
The judges said the trial court record showed several GM engineers in the courtroom who could have answered that question were not called as witnesses.
“It is undisputed that Mrs. Forbes suffered severe and tragic injuries as a result of this automobile accident,” wrote the majority of the Appeals Court in its opinion. “The fact that Mrs. Forbes was injured in an automobile accident, however, is not proof of a defective product.”
In a dissent, four members of the Appeals Court wrote the Forbeses relied on a statement in the GM owners manual that the air bag would inflate in a fraction of a second if the collision was hard enough. They said the Forbeses were arguing that the air bag didn’t inflate as the owners manual said.
The dissenting judges said GM’s owners manual does not define what kind of accident would be “hard enough” to inflate the air bag. They said the testimony offered by the couple about the damage to the cars was sufficient to support their claim that the device should have inflated.
In all large truck cases it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and to enable physicians or other expert witnesses to thoroughly evaluate any injuries. If you or a loved one is a victim of a large truck accident, call the Truck Accident Lawyers Group, Inc. now at (877) 736-4222 or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A SIMPLE CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.