Personal Injury Payday: $977M to Crash Victim in Mitsubishi Seatbelt Lawsuit

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A Pennsylvania Jury Has Slammed Mitsubishi Motors With A Near Billion-Dollar Payout To A Man Who Suffered A Life-Altering Injury Due To A Defective Seatbelt.

A Pennsylvania jury has delivered a staggering near billion-dollar verdict against Mitsubishi Motors, ordering the automotive giant to compensate a man with nearly $977 million for injuries sustained from a defective seatbelt.

Defective seatbelt leads to tragedy

58-year-old Francis Amagasu's life took a drastic turn following a rollover crash in 2017 with his 1992 Mitsubishi 3000GT. While trying to pass another vehicle, Amagasu lost control, leading to his vehicle veering off the road and overturning.

Despite being secured by a seatbelt, it  was one made with a "rip-stitch" design, where the belt comes apart to better manage the forces in a crash.

In fact, subsequent investigations and court documents have highlighted a concerning issue with the Mitsubishi's seatbelt system. During the crash, the seatbelt reportedly slackened excessively, contributing significantly to the severity of Amagasu's injuries. As a result of these injuries, Amagasu now requires a wheelchair for mobility.

The lawsuit centered on the claim that the seatbelt's design was flawed, allowing an additional four inches of slack during the crash that caused Amagasu to collide with the roof of the car, causing life-altering injuries and resulting in quadriplegia.

 “As a result of the crash and rollover sequence, Francis Amagasu sustained catastrophic injuries to the spine, neck, head and body, that have rendered him paralyzed and totally incapable of caring for himself,” the Mitsubishi seat belt lawsuit stated.

According to Business Insider, before this tragic incident, Amagasu was known as a master woodworker, a craft passed down from his grandfather, George Nakashima, whose works are on display in the Smithsonian. Now, Amagasu resides in a rehabilitation facility.

Did Mitsubishi drop the ball on safety?

The case raised questions about the safety design of Mitsubishi's vehicles, particularly focusing on the seatbelt system. It alleged that the seatbelt, intended to be a safety feature, became a risk due to its ability to slacken during a crash. The lawsuit aimed to address whether this design flaw contributed to the failure to adequately secure the driver in such critical moments, spotlighting concerns over the vehicle's overall safety features.

Jury drops a financial bomb on Mitsubishi

After deliberating for less than five hours, the jury awarded Amagasu $176 million in compensatory damages in December 2023. This sum is aimed at addressing his ongoing medical care, lost earnings, and the overall impact of his injuries on his life.

Additionally, the jury took a firm stand on the issue of corporate responsibility by imposing $800 million in punitive damages on Mitsubishi. This decision serves to penalize the automaker for its negligence that contributed to the seatbelt defect and to serve as a deterrent against similar lapses in the future.

Mitsubishi gears up

Following the verdict, Mitsubishi has signaled they're gearing up to challenge the decision in court. They're questioning what they see as significant missteps during the trial and maintaining that this verdict is not representative of their longstanding safety record. In fact, Mitsubishi insists on the recognized safety of their vehicles, a claim supported by their history of accolades.

According to a statement published by Reuters, the company asserts, "Mitsubishi Motors vehicles are and have been among the safest on the road, having won multiple safety awards to attest to that fact."

Setting new precedents

This personal injury case and unanimous jury verdict has shed light on the importance of rigorous safety testing and could have far-reaching implications for how automotive manufacturers approach the design and testing of safety features like seatbelts.

More than just a financial judgment, this verdict sets a new standard. It emphasizes the weight of corporate responsibility and the importance of prioritizing the safety and well-being of individuals.

Amagasu is represented by Nancy J. Winkler, Fredric S. Eisenberg, Jessica A. Colliver and Daniel J. Sherry Jr. of Eisenberg Rothweiler Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck; and Wesley T. Ball and Kyle W. Farrar of Kastar Lynch Farrar & Ball.

The Mitsubishi defective seatbelt lawsuit is Amagasu et al. v. Mitsubishi Motors North America et al., Case No. 181102406, in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

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