A jury in Vermont recently returned a $43.1 million jury verdict against the manufacturer of a car seat that collapsed on a woman during a 2007 car crash, rendering her a paraplegic. The amount awarded Dzemila A. Heco in her lawsuit against the car seat-maker, Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee is believed to be the biggest jury verdict in state court in Vermont history. The jury reached its verdict after two weeks of trial. Johnson Controls is considering an appeal.
The case arose from an August 4, 2007, accident on a state road in Essex town. Heco’s car, a 2000 Dodge Neon, was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by a teenage driver. The teenager fell asleep just before striking the Heco car, which was waiting at a red light to turn into a grocery store parking lot. The striking car was traveling about 35 mph when the crash occurred. The car seat-back collapsed on Ms. Heco when the wreck occurred, causing severe spinal-cord injuries. She was wearing a seatbelt at the time.
The case initially listed 33 defendants when it was filed in 2010. By 2012, all but Johnson Controls and Midstate Dodge has been dismissed. Midstate Dodge settled out of court with the Hecos, according to court records. Johnson Controls, which had operated an automobile battery manufacturing plant in Bennington, shut down in 1994.
Ms. Heco is a refugee from Bosnia who escaped Sarajevo with her two sons after her husband was killed. The woman and her sons made their way to the United States and then to Vermont in 1995. She had worked three jobs for years so her sons could get an education, according to media reports. Robin H. Curtiss, a lawyer with Van Dorn & Curtiss, based in Orford, N.H., represented Ms. Heco. She did a very good job for her in this case.