A jury at the Court of Common Pleas in Lackawanna has awarded almost $6 million compensation for an air bag failing to deploy in an auto crash, due to which the driver suffered serious injuries.
On August 20, 2010, John Cancelleri (83) from Spring Brook Township in Pennsylvania was driving south along Route 309 in his Mercury Sable, when a Ford Mustang traveling in the opposite direction made a left turn immediately in front of him – resulting in a head-on collision.
John´s Mercury Sable was equipped with an airbag, but it failed to deploy as the two cars collided – resulting in John striking his head on the steering wheel and suffering a herniated disc at C7-T1, which resulted in lower extremity paralysis.
John underwent an anterior decompression of the spinal cord on his arrival at hospital, with spinal cooling, and a cervical fusion. He was discharged from a rehabilitation facility in December 2010, but was re-admitted to hospital in September 2011 due to multiple urinary tract infections, severe neck pain, episodes of falling, and the discovery that John had suffered a collapse of his cervical spine.
John continues to suffer from bowel and bladder issues, and has had treatment for pneumonia and an ulcer on the coccyx which his doctors attribute to the treatment he first underwent after the auto crash. He is confined to a wheelchair and has also developed diabetes since his accident. John´s doctors believe he will require ongoing care for the rest of his life due to the airbag failing to deploy.
After seeking legal advice, John claimed compensation for the airbag failing to deploy against the Ford Motor Co. and Ray Price Motors Inc., claiming that the vehicle was designed, manufactured, distributed and sold by Ford and Ray Price, and that the crash sensor malfunctioned due to a deficiently designed restraint control module.
The two defendants denied their liability for John´s injuries and said that accident was a moderate offset head-on collision which did not meet the threshold for the deployment of the airbag. Ford argued that the safety system was safely designed, crashworthy, free from defects and in compliance with all internal and federal standards.
John´s lawyer attempted to settle the claim for compensation for an airbag failing to deploy for $5 million; but all that Ford was willing to settle for was $415,000. Consequently the case went to the Court of Common Pleas in Lackawanna where it was heard by a jury before Judge James Gibbons.
At the hearing, John´s lawyer told the jury that the velocity of the impact had exceeded Ford´s specification for the deployment of the airbag, and showed evidence that the passenger airbag had deployed despite no passenger being in the car at the time of the accident.
The defendants´ lawyers argued that John´s injuries could not have been attributable to the airbag failing to deploy because the seat belt would have prevented him from sustaining the injuries he was claiming for. They argued that John´s condition was due to degeneration, age and previous medical problems which included demobilizing edema and venous thrombosis.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the jury found that the airbag was deficiently designed, that a safer version was available, and that the failure of the airbag to deploy was responsible for John´s injuries. The jury awarded John $5,920,707 compensation for an airbag failing to deploy, which included compensation for his pain and suffering, medical expenses and loss of consortium with his wife.