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Heirs v. International Manufacturer

In Heirs v. International Manufacturer (confidential settlement), Michael A. Kelly, Doris Cheng and Andrew P. McDevitt obtained a confidential multi-million dollar settlement for the wife and newborn baby of a Northern California deliveryman who suffered fatal injuries while working. The decedent was riding in the middle position of the front bench seat of the delivery truck. As designed, the occupant of that middle seating position was not protected by an airbag, and was restrained by a lap-only seatbelt. No shoulder harness was available for the decedent. The Walkup team alleged that this lap-only restraint design was defective because it allowed the decedent’s unrestrained upper torso to rotate forward at impact when his co-employee rear-ended another vehicle. In the subject crash the decedent’s head and torso struck the dashboard without any supplemental airbag protection. The defendant vehicle maker denied any problem with the design, asserting that it fully complied with applicable Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations at the time of its manufacture and sale. The manufacturer argued in its own defense that the sole cause of the fatal injuries was the victim’s co-worker who negligently rear-ended the car ahead. The co-worker claimed that the vehicle ahead of him was stopped on the freeway for no reason. That driver denied being stopped. Black box data from both vehicles proved that the rear-ended driver had indeed been stopped on the freeway. Mike, Doris and Andrew showed that the lap-only restraint design was known to be defective to the entire industry even though it did not violate federal law. As part of the resolution the workers’ compensation lien and future credit were both compromised.

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