A lawyer is requesting that Indiana Mills & Manufacturing Inc., (IMMI) recall 15,000 defective seat belts, which can be found on tractor-trailer trucks driven throughout the country. The request came after a man died from injuries he sustained when he was ejected from his truck.
The man had been wearing his seat belt, but the belt buckle failed, resulting in him being thrown from his vehicle. The lawyer says that IMMI has issued a silent recall on the buckles but have not announced a public recall. A silent recall occurs when products are replaced as consumers bring them in for replacement but no announcement is made to the general public.
The family of the man who died in the car accident sued IMMI and recently settled the wrongful death lawsuit. According to the lawyer, IMMI knew that the belt buckle was defective but continued to sell it to truck manufacturers. Truck manufacturers received complaints that the belt buckles were not latching properly and passed those complaints on to IMMI. Two IMMI engineers also worked on a new design for the buckle in order to prevent failure. During their work they discovered a Failure Modes and Effects study that assigned a severity value of 10 (the highest value on the scale) to the belt’s potential failure. The engineers also designed a belt that was not defective; however for some reason it was not used in all new trucks.
IMMI has faced other lawsuits related to their defective belt buckles. In 2003, James and Beverly Hodges filed a lawsuit against IMMI and other defendants claiming that a defective seat belt buckle caused James’ extensive injuries when he was involved in a car accident. James was driving a Mack truck at the time of the accident, during which he was thrown from his truck and sustained severe injuries, including paraplegia. He claimed that had his seat belt worked properly, he would not have been ejected from his truck and would not have suffered as severe injuries. The Hodges settled with IMMI for $1.4 million.
In addition to lawsuits, IMMI has had other seat belt buckles recalled. In 2002, Utilimaster Aeromasters from 1996-2000 had their belt buckles recalled. The problem was that after repeated flexing, the cable could fatigue at the point that it was crimped to the buckle which could cause it to detach from the buckle.