Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 10, 2020

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A Tennessee jury awarded $6.5 million to a 14 year old boy who became paralyzed from the waist down after a 2002 car accident. The jury found that the Ford Mercury Grand Marquis he was driving in was equipped with defective seatbelts that were not suitable for a child.

Tennessee product liability

This Memphis Tennessee car accident lawsuit involves now 14 year old Billy Meals. According to news reports, Billy, his father and his grandfather were on their way to see a sick family member and were driving their in the grandfather’s 1995 Mercury Grand Marquis. Only seven years old at the time, Billy was in the back seat with his seatbelt on. However, a drunk driver hit their car head on – killing Billy’s father and grandfather and leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

His family filed a lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company alleging that the seatbelt equipped in the Grand Marquis was defective because it was not suitable for a child of his size. The jury agreed and awarded him $43.8 million in damages. However, much of that award was against the deceased drunk driver who hit Billy’s car. Ford was found to be 15% liable for Billy’s injuries – which is $6.5 million. Ironically, Ford fixed the problem by distributing booster seats to protect children between the ages of four and eight who are too big for child seats and too small for adult safety belts.

Defective seatbelts continue to cause severe injuries & death

Defective seatbelts cause severe injuries and kill thousands of Americans every year. Car accident attorneys say that manufactures must take the appropriate steps to insure seatbelts work properly. When they don’t, they can be held liable for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering and possibly punitive damages. Here are some verdicts which have been reported involving defective seatbelt lawsuits:

  • $5.7M: A California man’s family was awarded $5.7 million after he was killed by a defective seatbelt manufactured by American Honda Motor Company.
  • $11M: A Georgia jury awarded the family of a young girl $11 million after she was killed by a defective seatbelt manufactured by Volkswagen of America.
  • $45.5M: A California family was awarded $45.5 million for a defective seatbelt manufactured by Ford Motor Company that caused a six year old child permanent paralysis.
  • $15M: A California jury awarded the family of a nine year old boy $15 million after he was left paralyzed and permanently brain damaged due to a defective seatbelt.
  • $7M: A Wisconsin jury awarded a man $7 million after he was severely injured by a defectively designed seatbelt.

Seatbelt injuries not always apparent

Injuries due to defectively designed seatbelts are not always apparent after an accident occurs. An experienced car accident lawyer in your state will be able to review all of the facts and circumstances surrounding your situation and go over all of the options that might be available to you and your family. However, it’s important to take action asap as every state has a different statute of limitations, or time period, in which a lawsuit can be filed.