— Nissan has agreed to settle a $1.5 million lawsuit after a South Carolina teenager was killed in a Nissan Versa rollover crash.
Ashlynn Nicole Overton, 18, was driving a 2016 Nissan Versa in July 2017 northbound on Highway 25 in Aiken County, South Carolina, when a second vehicle also traveling north swerved into Overton's lane and hit the front passenger bumper of the Versa.
Ms. Overton’s Nissan Versa hit the curb, rolled over and ejected the teen, with the Versa finally landing in the southbound lane.
The lawsuit alleges Nissan failed at just about everything concerning the Versa, including:
- Failing to properly design the Versa.
- Failing to properly assemble the vehicle.
- Failing to properly test the vehicle.
- Failing to design the side curtain airbags to prevent occupants from being ejected in rollover accidents.
- Failing to design the restraint system and airbag systems of the Versa in a manner to properly restrain and protect its occupants.
According to the lawsuit, "[t]he restraint system was insufficient in Ms. Overton’s vehicle and did not sufficiently restrain and otherwise protect Ashlynn Nicole Overton."
Although the lawsuit claims the "restraint system was insufficient," Ms. Overton wasn't wearing her seat belt, the very device used to protect an occupant in a rollover crash.
"The seat belt is the primary protection for people in a rollover crash, and almost 70% of people who are killed in rollovers are unbelted," says Russ Rader, of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Mr. Rader says for protection in a rollover crash, the seat belt is the primary restraint and the side airbags are supplemental. And based on a statement from Nissan, the automaker is fully aware of the role of side airbags in rollover crashes.
“Our sympathies are with the Overton family. The safety of our owners and their passengers is always our priority with our vehicles. In this case, the 2016 Nissan Versa neither caused nor contributed to this crash. It is a well-designed and thoroughly tested vehicle that meets or exceeds applicable federal safety standards. It is important to note that while airbags can help prevent or mitigate injuries, they are only supplemental systems. Occupants should always wear seat belts, as unrestrained occupants are at an increased risk of injury or death in a crash.” - Nissan statement
Although the 2016 Nissan Versa was equipped with side airbags for a side-impact crash, there were no regulations requiring sensors to deploy those airbags in a rollover crash. The attorneys who filed the lawsuit claim the car was defective because it didn't have rollover sensors it wasn't required to have.
The automaker likely settled the $1.5 million case before trial to avoid the expense and time associated with prolonged litigation.
According to a report from the Associated Press, Overton's estate is receiving about $776,000 and lawyers for the family are receiving about $675,000.
The Nissan Versa lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Aiken Division - Barbara Matthews, personal representative for the estate of Ashlynn Nicole Overton, v. Nissan Motor Company, Ltd., et al.
The plaintiff is represented by Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman.