A Dallas woman who was paralyzed in a van-truck crash was awarded a $37.6 million jury verdict on Thursday. She sued Honda, claiming her horrific injuries were caused by its defective rear seat belt. Sarah Milburn, who is now 27, was a passenger in the third row in a Honda Odyssey minivan on a December night in 2015.
She and her friends were celebrating her upcoming college graduation. Her future was bright. The women called for an Uber to drive them home.
Unfortunately their Uber driver ran a red light on McKinney Avenue. The van was hit so hard by a pickup truck driven by a man who was DWI that it rolled over two times and landed upside down.
Sarah tragically suffered a fractured neck and is now a quadriplegic.
After months in a hospital and rehabilitation facility, she had to move home with her parents.
Why the verdict was so remarkable
Honda has vigorously denied that it is liable and has announced that it will be appealing Milburn v. American Honda Motor, DC-16-16470.
Other recent multi-million dollar DFW verdicts
This verdict follows a string of other enormous local verdicts.
For example, in December a night club which over served alcohol to a former Dallas Cowboys player, causing a tragic car accident which took the life of his passenger (another Cowboy), led to a $25 million verdict also obtained by Sarah’s superlative lawyer, Charla Aldous. Other excellent trial lawyers, including Jim Mitchell, also helped obtain Sarah’s verdict.
Tarrant County juries have awarded the following verdicts in the last year:
- $160 million to the surviving heirs of a woman killed by so-called Irish Travelers;
- $7 million to the parents of a man in a vehicle who died after being hit by the extended light poles carried by an 18-wheeler; and
- $5 million to the surviving heirs of a man killed by a Coca-Cola tractor-trailer (reduced by his 45% comparative negligence)
In Dallas County, a car dealership was slapped with a $42 million verdict when another Honda’s roof, which had cheaply been glued back on and erupted into a fireball after a routine crash, seriously injured a husband and wife.
There have been several others recently.
Are those verdicts typical?
Just the opposite. Most car wreck cases result in far smaller settlements or verdicts. They are usually caused by individuals who often have the standard insurance limits of $30,000 per person, which acts as a maximum recovery in almost every case unless other insurance or assets are available. You rarely, if ever, hear about these cases.
But since many insurance defense lawyers and claims adjusters often tell plaintiff lawyers that juries in Texas do not award large amounts, these multi-million dollar verdicts are welcomed.
The federal government has failed to protect the driving public
An internal audit revealed that the NHTSA has failed to prevent crashes and relies on the car manufacturers to do its job. The report found that the federal agency had a weak management and undertrained staff that did not verify data and customer’s complaints.
When General Motors and the other giant manufacturers lied about crashes and vehicle parts, the government took them at their word. As a result, hundreds of people have died in the U.S. due to defective seatbelts, airbags, ignition switches, steering, tires, wiring, and computers.
Uber has also been lax at preventing injuries
The problem with drivers driving recklessly and even assaulting their passengers erupted last year. As a result, Uber announced with great fanfare that it was adding a host of new safety procedures, including more vigorous screening of its drivers, annual safety reviews, a safety app, and instant 911 dialing. I await the results of these safety measures.