Penn Law and Beasley Allen lawyers secured a more than $45 million settlement on behalf of a 9-year-old boy crushed in an automobile vehicle crash and left paralyzed. The lawyers uncovered evidence that an illegal lift kit installed in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited contributed to the child’s injuries, including paraplegia.
Beasley Allen auto crash lawyer Chris Glover represented the child’s family. He said,
The lift kit’s design, even in a foreseeable crash, lifted the vehicle so that it would impact a passenger vehicle at a higher area than what is compatible for crashworthiness structures to be effective. This amplified the potential for severe injury and/or death to occupants in a crash that the defendants should have known was reasonably foreseeable.
On Jan. 14, 2019, in Coweta County, Georgia, plaintiff Ann Marie Brown’s vehicle sat in standstill westbound traffic on Georgia Highway 16. Ms. Brown was driving a 2001 Honda Civic, and Dominick Perez, a minor, was in the rear passenger’s seat. Suddenly, defendant Gregory Newman failed to slow the Jeep he was driving in time to avoid a collision with the plaintiffs’ vehicle and struck them from the rear.
Illegal Lift Kit Causes Lasting Injuries
Fitted with an aftermarket lift kit, Newman’s 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited sat higher than state law allows. The Honda Civic’s rear portion sustained significant crushing due to the difference in the vehicles’ heights. The passenger compartment survival space crumpled, causing Perez’s life-altering injuries.
The 4-inch lift kit manufactured, assembled, assessed, and sold by defendant Pro Comp increased the Jeep’s height. Lift kits over two inches are illegal in Georgia. The lift kit was pre-installed in the Jeep when Newman purchased it from a local dealership.
National Safety Standards
All cars sold in the U.S. must comply with the Enhanced Vehicle to Vehicle Crash Compatibility Agreement, which addresses bumper compatibility between vehicles by setting bumper heights at a predesignated level. This helps assure that the crashworthiness structures of vehicles line up in the event of a collision. Bumpers mitigate damage because their design allows them to absorb energy from the impact of a collision. These compatibility standards help prevent bumper override conditions like the one that paralyzed Dominick.
The key to this case was the lawyers’ and staff’s persistence. Pro Comp denied manufacturing and selling the lift kit. Instead, the company claimed it was likely a “Chinese knockoff.” Through substantial discovery and, as Chris says, “getting our hands dirty,” our lawyers found out who made the lift kit. Chris spent hours underneath the Jeep until he found a part with Pro Comp’s serial number. Chris said:
That’s when the case began to turn in our client’s favor. Dominick needed our help, and I knew we had to do whatever it took to help him. I’m proud our firms could come together to do just that. The lawyers reached a $36 million settlement with Pro Comp.
The plaintiff reached prior settlements with other defendants totaling $9 million. Penn Law lawyer Darren Penn explained that the case presented substantial obstacles. He observed, “There were seven separate insurance companies that had to come together to agree to settle this case.”
Penn Law’s James I. Seifter and Beasley Allen’s Alyssa Baskam also represented the plaintiffs