Thiemanee v. Nissan

Date: July 30, 1997

On May 20, 1992 at 8:00 p.m. Plaintiffs’ Deceded daughter, a 16 year-old student, was driving her new Nissan Stanza. She was wearing her automatic shoulder belt but was not using her manual seat belt. Plaintiff drove northbound on Lennox Ave. in Van Nuys to the “T” intersection with westbound Sherman Way.

Sherman Way is uncontrolled and Lennox is controlled by a stop sign. According to witnesses, Plaintiff made a complete stop and began a slow left turn. She crossed over the two eastbound lanes and had almost completed her turn when an oncoming LAPD patrol car, responding to a 911 call without lights or siren, collided with Plaintiff’s left real wheel, causing her car to spin into the #2 westbound lane of Sherman Way. The driver was found just outside the car between her open door and the door jamb, suspended by the shoulder belt around her neck. She was transported by ambulance to the hospital where she was later pronounced dead.

Plaintiff stated that during the initial phase of the impact, Decedent moved forward and to her left up against the left door panel. The left door then almost immediately popped open and Decedent continued moving left, with her torso submarining under the shoulder belt; that she was thrown out the open door until she was ultimately held back only by her head/neck catching on the shoulder belt.

Plaintiff contended that the occupant restraint system incorporated in the 1992 Nissan Stanza was defective; that defendants knew that the motorized shoulder harness and manual lap belt design posed a harmful and potential fatal risk if improperly worn; that Defendants knew many consumers could easily fail to engage the manual lap belt. Plaintiffs further contended that Defendants did not properly warn consumers of the risks/dangers associated with the motorized shoulder and manual lap belt system; that the door latch, a component of the vehicle’s occupant restraint system, was defective in that the driver’s door opened during the collision sequence which caused Decedent driver to be thrown out of the vehicle.

Defense contended that the occupant restraint system incorporated in 1992 Nissan Stanza was not defective in that it met the criteria set by the applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; that the fatal injuries that the Decedent caused the collision by making a left turn in front of the oncoming patrol car.

On July 30, 1997 the jury came out with a $3.15 million verdict.



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