Toyota is in hot water after a 2016 collision left two kids with injuries they’ll carry for the rest of their lives. When a family’s Lexus and another car impacted, the seats collapsed backward. A civil jury in Texas ruled that Toyota knew about the danger and didn’t do as it should have done to prevent these kinds of injuries by informing consumers better. The verdict resulted in a massive $242 million payment by the popular automaker.
The worst part? It would have only cost about a dollar a seat to rectify the defect causing the injuries.
The 2016 car accident occurred in September of 2016 near Dallas. Ben and Kristi Reavis were making their way home after church with their children, Owen, 3, and Emily, 5. An SUV smashed into the 2002 Lexus they were driving at the time. The SUV was doing 45 mph on an expressway when the accident took place.
The front seats collapsed backward. The parents landed on Owen and Emily, who both sustained permanent brain injuries. During the trial, a crash test was used to simulate what the impact would have looked like when it happened.
Toyota’s response was hardly the kind you’d want to hear if it were your own kids in such a devastating accident. The company believes that regardless of what the simulation showed, the injuries were not the result of a design or manufacturing defect. According to attorney Frank Branson, “Toyota testified in this matter that they had known since the ’80s.” Branson believed that the jury wanted to make a bold statement by getting the attention of automakers everywhere.
According to a CBS investigation looking into similar accidents, there were at least 100 automobile accidents that resulted in “serious injury or death” because of seatback collapses. These injuries were mostly sustained by children. Even accounting for these car accidents, the federal standards for manufacturing were met or exceeded.
After that investigation was reported, some members of Congress have contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (or NHTSA) to request that the standards be improved to prevent further injuries. The NHTSA says that kids should still ride in the back seat.