Question: Dwayne Maddox and his wife Amanda were driving home on
Dwayne Maddox and his wife, Amanda, were driving home on a highway in their Nissan Pathfinder SUV. Dwayne, who was driving the vehicle, weighed 170 pounds, and Amanda, who was sitting in the passenger seat, weighed 240 pounds. Amanda had previously had a gastric bypass surgery to help control her weight. Both were wearing their seat belts. Another driver, Edward Sapp, who was greatly intoxicated, drove his vehicle on the wrong side of the highway and collided head on with Maddox’s SUV. Sapp died at the scene. Dwayne was able to exit the SUV and suffered a shattered right heel. Amanda, however, was trapped inside the front passenger seat, and rescuers needed to extricate her from the vehicle with hydraulic equipment. Amanda was transported to a medical center. Amanda’s seat belt did not properly protect her and had caused her bypass surgery to rupture. Amanda’s injuries were extensive. She suffered fractures of her sternum, several ribs, vertebrae, and hip. Amanda was hospitalized for 139 days, had 75 surgical procedures, was unable to eat food for seven months, and was medically required to keep an open abdominal wound— with her internal organs visible— during part of the time she was hospitalized. Amanda sued Nissan Motor Company, Ltd., the company that manufactured the Nissan Pathfinder SUV that she and her husband were in at the time of the accident, to recover damages for strict liability based on an alleged defect in design of the seat belt restraint system of the SUV. Amanda alleged that Nissan designed its seat belt restraint system to protect persons weighing approximately 171 pounds that the restraint system was not properly designed to protect a person of her weight, and that Nissan should be found strictly liable for a design defect for not designing its seat belt restraint system to safely protect persons of her weight. Is Nissan strictly liable for failing to design a seat belt restraint system to safely protect heavier persons in vehicle collisions? Nissan Motor Company, Ltd. v. Maddox, 2013 Ky. App. Lexis 133 (Court of Appeals of Kentucky, 2013)
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