$1,000,000 Settlement for Defective Roof and Seatbelt Design / SUV Rollover

The firm represented the estate of a 39-year-old mother and wife in a case involving her death caused when her SUV rolled over after she lost control of the vehicle. The roof of the SUV was severely crushed during the rollover, leading to the seat belted woman’s partial ejection from the vehicle. The firm demonstrated that there was already available technology and reasonable alternative designs for the SUV which would have prevented the woman’s injuries, including a stronger roof, better seat belts, laminated side glass and several alternative designs that could have cured the SUV’s stability problems. Blume Forte’s expert witnesses ran tests on the SUV that showed its roof was likely to excessively crush during foreseeable speed rollover accidents.

The SUV’s manufacturer knew that the SUV had critical stability problems even during the design and testing phase of the vehicle. It also knew since the 1960’s that SUVs and pickup trucks were rolling over at a rate more than 3 times the amount experienced by regular passenger vehicles. By the time the car manufacturer entered the small SUV market with this particular model SUV, federal government funded studies showed that short wheelbase SUV vehicles, like the one driven by the plaintiff’s decedent, were far more likely to roll over and cause injury, but the manufacturer did surprisingly little to ensure that drivers of this model SUV would be safe from rollover related injuries.

Other SUV manufacturers also ignored the safety risks posed by SUVs. The result is that many SUVs on the road today have roofs that would not offer passengers the level of safety that is, and was, easily achievable through the use of better quality steel and roof designs. Many of the problems with SUV roofs could have been cured through the use of simple “off the shelf” technology at a surprisingly low cost.