The mother of a 1-year-old girl who was decapitated by an air bag that deployed in a slow-speed collision sued Volkswagen on Friday, alleging the German automaker manufactured a defective product.
Alexandra Greer died Nov. 26, 1996, when the 1995 Jetta that Autumn Rebecca Blackman was driving collided with another car in a Boise shopping center.
The impact deployed both air bags at a force of 200 mph. The infant was in a forward-facing child seat.
The lawsuit was filed in 4th District Court in Boise against Volkswagen of America Inc. and the Ada County woman driving the other car. Blackman asks for unspecified damages.
“We alleged in this case that the Jetta was defective and unreasonably dangerous,” said Alan Morton, Blackman’s attorney.
He said it was the first time Blackman ever drove the car, which was her sister’s, and Blackman also suffered back and neck injuries.
She insists the seat belt was fastened down on the child seat during the accident and she unbuckled it afterwards.
But a preliminary report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in May concluded the child safety seat was not secured to the front seat. The child seat pivoted forward against the air bag cover as it deployed.
“I don’t want this case to be a seat belt case; it’s an air bag case,” Morton said.
Volkswagen wanted Boise police to travel to Germany so engineers there could conduct tests on the device that triggered the air bags. A computer chip in the box stores information that might have provided clues on why they deployed at that speed.
The police objected and the test was not conducted.
Morton said 77 Americans have been killed by air bags, 44 of them children, and 71 percent of the accidents occurred at speeds of 15 mph or less.
Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, R-Idaho, has grilled federal regulators over air bag safety standards.
Kempthorne believes air bags deploy too aggressively. He wants the government to drop a test that requires automakers to design bags that will deploy fast enough to cushion an unbelted male dummy in a 30 mph crash into a wall.
The Boise city attorney’s office on Friday also announced no criminal charges would be filed against either woman in the collision.
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