When we strap our babies into car seats, we do so with the promise that if something bad happens on the road, the car seat will protect our little ones from harm. But what happens when these car seats that are meant to protect our infants add to the danger? What happens when a car seat contributes to your child’s injuries making it more serious – even fatal?
That’s exactly what happened to Chad and Jessica Malcolm, whose 4-month-old son Tyler died after a July 2000 rollover crash. Tyler was snugly buckled into an Evenflo “On My Way” brand car seat. But when the vehicle rolled over, little Tyler hit his head on the car seat’s hard plastic shell after the car seat was ejected. How did the infant car seat get ejected? Because a hook broke loose from the seat and there was evidence of the same defect in five other incidents that resulted in serious injuries to the babies.
Last week, a jury awarded $10.4 million to the grieving couple – including $6.7 million in compensatory damages, $3.7 million in punitive damages, according to an Associated Press news report posted in the Arizona Star’s Web site. This certainly is not the only failure of Evenflo child car seats. They have lost at least three other cases over their car seats, the damages adding up to $19.6 million. I have no idea how many other cases they have settled.
To me, the most aggravating fact of this case is that the car seat manufacturer had originally considered lining the hard shell of the car seats in question with foam. But later they decided against it. I can sum up the reason for that decision in one word – profits. I bet that was the reason they decided to go with the cheaper hard shell. To a manufacturer, that car seat is another finished item off the production line. It’s a serial number. It’s part of an inventory. To us, it’s a protective shield for those little people we treasure the most – our precious children.
Evenflo is of course appealing the jury award. The company’s attorneys refuse to admit their product was defective and say Tyler died because he hit his head on the road after the vehicle rolled over in what they call an “extraordinary car accident.” Obviously, the jury didn’t buy that argument.
Although a car seat is the only place to put your infant in the car, defective car seats have caused numerous serious injuries to children. Some common defects include shoulder straps that may unclip or slide loose on impact. Sometimes, the slot where the seatbelt holds the car seat in place is too weak and unable to hold the safety seat in place upon the force of a collision. Other defective seats are made without proper pelvic protection allowing the child to slide down in the seat during the accident. Injuries could range from broken bones to more severe neck or spinal cord injuries and as it happened in Tyler’s case – death.
In my opinion, any car seat is better than placing a child on your lap. But the makers of deceptively weak car seats must be held responsible for their lackadaisical attitude to safety. I’m glad that jurors awarded punitive damages in this case. It’s almost the only way these industry giants will change their ways, hit them in the pocketbook. Make it to their benefit to make their seats more effective for the purpose they are intended, safety in a collision.