After deliberating eight hours, a Texas jury ordered Toyota to pay $242.1 million to compensate a Dallas family involved in a 2016 rear-end collision that seriously injured two children.
The children, aged 3 and 5, were rear-seat occupants in a 2002 Lexus ES300 driven by parentsÂ Benjamin and Kristi ReavisÂ on Dallas’ North Central Expressway. While stopped in traffic, a Honda Pilot collided with the rear of the car at a high rate of speed, causing the front seatbacks to collapse.
The boy and girl, sitting in child seats, sustained serious head trauma as a result of the collision. Of the hefty total, the Aug. 17th verdict rendered by the Dallas County District Court jury includes $143.6 million in punitive damages for “gross negligence.”
“This is a danger that Toyota has known about,” Branson said in a statement. “This company has had plenty of time to design around these safety shortcomings or at least provide the public with warnings. Our children deserve better.”
While a collapsing seatback would certainly help reduce the chance of whiplash in a rear-end collision, as Branson claims, it also places front-seat occupants in danger of sliding out from under their seatbelts, thus increasing the risk of a different type of injury. This author has personally attended an accident scene where a high-speed rear-end collision (in this case, with a tree) resulted in the driver’s death after the seatback failed.
â€œWhile we respect the juryâ€™s decision, we remain confident that the injuries sustained were the result of factors specific to this very severe collision, not a defect in the design or manufacturing of the 2002 Lexus ES300,â€� a Toyota spokesman said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
The automaker claimed it will consider its options going forward.