PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia jury has awarded over $976 million in a lawsuit involving a defective seatbelt that resulted in a man becoming quadriplegic. The verdict was delivered on Monday, with the jury awarding more than $176.5 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs, Francis and Soomi Amagasu. In addition, they ordered Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the sole defendant in the trial, to pay $800 million in punitive damages.
The lawsuit centered around the claim that Mitsubishi failed to adequately test the safety of its seatbelt restraint system in its 1992 model 3000GT sports car. According to the plaintiffs, the design of the seatbelt allowed for four inches of slack, which in Francis Amagasu’s case, resulted in him striking his head during a collision and becoming quadriplegic. The plaintiffs further argued that Mitsubishi had not conducted necessary rollover testing on the seatbelt system.
Wesley Ball of Kaster Lynch Farrar & Ball, who represented the plaintiffs alongside Kyle Farrar of Farrar & Ball, and Dan Sherry Jr., Nancy Winkler, and Jessica Colliver of Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, expressed their satisfaction with the jury’s verdict. They believed it sent a strong message about the jury’s faith in their case and condemnation of Mitsubishi’s actions.
Mitsubishi’s counsel, Campbell Conroy & O’Neil, declined to comment on the verdict and confirmed their plans to appeal. In a statement, the company expressed disappointment and argued that their vehicles have always been among the safest on the road, highlighting multiple safety awards they have received.
During the trial’s punitive damages phase, Ball argued that Mitsubishi had been reckless in its design and urged the jury to award further damages to punish and deter the company from similar conduct. Mitsubishi’s counsel, William Conroy, countered that there was no evidence to suggest willful misconduct on their part and claimed compliance with industry and government standards.
The jury unanimously returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs after only 20 minutes of deliberation. The compensatory damages included $140 million in noneconomic damages and $20 million for loss of consortium.
The large verdict in this case was attributed, in part, to the persuasive presence of Francis Amagasu, who was present in the courtroom throughout the trial. The plaintiffs’ attorneys, who have experience with crashworthy cases, are set to try several more lawsuits against various car manufacturers in the coming months.
The jury’s decision reflects their belief that Mitsubishi’s seatbelt design was defective and caused significant harm to Francis Amagasu, resulting in his life-changing injuries.