On May 30, 2014, Honda obtained a defense verdict in a claim of defect relating to its rollover side curtain airbag system in a 2006 Honda Odyssey in the Bridgeport Division of the United States District Court, District of Connecticut. The Honorable Tucker L. Melancon presided over the trial.
IADC member James M. Campbell of Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy in Boston, Massachusetts represented Honda in the case. The name of the case is 3:09-cv-00565-TLM Barack et al v. American Honda Motor Co. Inc.
The plaintiffs Ron and Donna Barack brought suit against Honda stemming from a single vehicle accident by Ron Barack when he lost control of his 2006 Honda Odyssey on a wet and slippery country road. The vehicle travelled off road, struck a wire and post guard rail system, yawed and tipped over on to the driver’s side. The glass in the driver’s side door fractured and Ron Barack’s left hand was ejected onto the pavement resulting in severe degloving and other disabling injuries to his hand. Ron Barack sought recovery for the loss of function, pain syndrome, psychological trauma, and inability to work alleged to stem from this injury. Donna Barack had a derivative claim for loss of consortium stemming from her husband’s injuries.
The 2006 Honda Odyssey was equipped with a rollover activated side curtain airbag system. The plaintiffs alleged that the vehicle was defective because the side curtain airbag did not deploy in the accident. The plaintiffs also asserted that Honda failed adequately to warn them about this defect, telling the jury that Honda marketed the vehicle with this rollover protection safety feature, that they relied upon these marketing materials in selecting the vehicle for purchase claiming and that they would not have purchased the vehicle if they knew that the curtain airbag would not deploy in certain rollovers.
At trial, the jury heard from Honda’s experts that the forces involved in this low energy slow rollover were insufficient to trigger airbag deployment. Honda’s experts explained to the jury that the system was reasonably and safely designed so as not to not deploy in low energy events where a curtain airbag is not needed or might cause harm to out of position occupants and to deploy in higher energy rollover accidents where the curtain airbag can minimize the risk of injury. Further, the jury heard from Honda’s experts that the curtain airbag is designed to provide incremental benefit to belted occupants from injury to the head, neck, and chest but cannot reasonably and reliably prevent a partial limb ejection and would not have prevented the plaintiff’s injury. Countering the failure to warn claim, the jury was presented with evidence that Honda was a leader in introducing a side curtain airbag system in the 2006 Honda Odyssey as standard equipment and that no other vans at the time had this feature as standard equipment. Further, this vehicle had obtained the highest NHTSA star ratings for rollover head protection. Evidence was also presented that Ron Barack had rejected medical and psychological services and turned down a job offer after the accident, and consequently did not mitigate his damages.
After 11 days at trial, the jury returned a defense verdict for Honda after deliberating for just over two hours.
James M. Campbell and Michelle I. Schaffer of Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy, Boston, Massachusetts represented Honda in the case.