Jury returns $55M verdict against Honda after crash paralyzes driver; faulty seat belt alleged


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PHILADELPHIA — A jury ordered Honda Motor Co. to pay $55.3 million for a rollover accident that left a Pennsylvania man paralyzed, but the car company said Friday it would appeal.

Lawyers for Carlos Martinez, 57, of York, argued during a nine-day trial that a faulty seat belt design in his Acura Integra caused the permanent injuries he suffered in 2010.

Martinez was driving to work in suburban Baltimore when a tire blew out and he lost control of the car, said his attorney, Stewart Eisenberg. The seat belt failed to prevent Martinez's head from hitting the roof of the car as it rolled over, the lawyer said.

Acura is a division of Honda. A spokesman for the company denied any problems with the "proven restraint system used by virtually every manufacturer."

"The evidence here clearly established that there is no vehicle-based defect that caused Mr. Martinez's injuries," Honda spokesman Chris Martin said in an emailed statement.

Eisenberg contended Honda knew such an injury was possible based on seat belt testing it conducted in 1992.

Damages awarded by the Philadelphia jury on Thursday include money for pain and suffering, future medical expenses, loss of consortium and loss of earnings. Martinez, a married father of four, worked in construction as a glazier but is now paralyzed from the chest down.

"All of a sudden their life is destroyed by this accident," said Eisenberg.

Martinez's nephew, a passenger in the car, was wearing his seatbelt but was not injured, Eisenberg said.

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