South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Wearing Seatbelt Not Relevant to Danger Posed by "Overly Aggressive" Airbag
Description Appeals court held that it was proper for a jury to not be allowed to consider the fact that a child was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident in which he was killed by the force of the airbag deployment. The jury could find that the automaker was negligent for not making a less aggressive airbag.
Topic Torts
Key Words Products Liability; Defective Design; Negligence; Strict Liability; Evidence
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Five-year old Eduardo was in his parent’s Hyundai riding in the front seat when there was an accident. He did not have a seatbelt on when the airbag deployed. As he was inches from the airbag, the force of the explosion killed him. His parents sued Hyundai, contending that the airbag was defective, either based on strict liability or negligence, because the airbag design was “overly aggressive.” Hyundai argued that the design was proper and that Eduardo’s death was caused by failure to wear a seatbelt, in violation of state law, something his father had been cited for twice before the accident. The judge would not allow evidence about the lack of seatbelt to be introduced at trial. The jury found Hyundai negligent and awarded damages. Hyundai appealed.

Affirmed. The evidence that the child was not wearing a seatbelt, and that his father had been cited previously for not having the child in a seatbelt, was excludible on the issue of negligent design of the airbag. Ignoring the non-use of a seatbelt, the jury could also find that Hyundai was not strictly liable but had been negligent in its design for failure to develop a less aggressive system.

Citation Connelly v. Hyundai Motor Co., 351 F.3d 535 (1st Cir., 2003)

Back to Torts Listings

©1997-2003  SW Legal Studies in Business. All Rights Reserved.