Decatur, GA— Attorneys Wednesday debated whether a car booster seat was to blame for the catastrophic injuries a toddler suffered in a 2018 crash, as trial opened against the seat’s manufacturer. Trice v. Dorel Juvenile Group, 18A70731.
Brittany Trice was driving with her two children wearing shoulder-lap safety belts and seated in Dorel Juvenile Group's "Rise" child booster seats when she hit a pickup truck in Tucker, Georgia. Her son, who was 4-years old at the time, suffered spinal injuries that have left him with quadriplegia, require him to breathe with a ventilator, and rely on long-term care.
During Wednesday’s openings, Trice’s attorney, Beasley Allen’s Thomas Willingham, told jurors the child’s medical expenses alone could exceed $63 million.
Willingham said Trice's son weighed 55 pounds and was properly wearing his three-point safety belt at the time of the crash, but that Dorel's booster seat allowed the child to slip out of the belt's restraint.
Willingham said the box the seat came in advertised the product as being appropriate for children weighing 40-100 pounds. However, he added that inserts on the seat’s side, and instructions under the seat, directed children to wear 5-point security belts until they had outgrown them.
Willingham told jurors that Trice's son was not big enough for the seat, and that the company's warnings were insufficient. He added that growth charts showed that the majority of children under 65 pounds would not be able to safely use the car seat because they would not have outgrown the 5-point harness.
“Why is it defective? They designed a seat to be used by children who were way too small to use it,” Willingham said. “Not only did they not warn parents of the dangers of this seat, they actually encouraged them to buy it.”
But Dorel contends that the seat is properly designed and safe when used as instructed. During Wednesday’s openings, ArentFox Schiff’s Jonathan Judge walked jurors through the seat’s safety standards and said its design received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest possible rating for quality of shoulder-belt fit.
“The reason why… the IIHS gives this rating,” Judge said, “ is because they are trying to make shoulder-belt rollout as rare as possible.”
Instead, Judge said evidence would show Trice’s son was injured because he was not properly secured by the car’s 3-point belt. “Contrary to multiple warnings on the booster seat and in the instruction manual, [he] had the shoulder belt behind his back,” Judge said. “The family knew that using a booster seat with the shoulder belt behind the back was dangerous, but that did not change how the Rise booster seats were used that day.”
Trial is expected to last about two weeks. CVN is streaming the trial live and on demand and will provide coverage via its news page.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.