— A BMW soft close door injury lawsuit will head for trial after a federal judge denied to dismiss the lawsuit.
In July 2016, New York plaintiff Godwin Boateng was exiting from the driver’s side door of his 2013 BMW X5 on a narrow street. He moved back to avoid oncoming traffic with his back to the door and his right hand behind his back.
The soft close door feature activated and pulled the door shut on his thumb, and according to the plaintiff, his right thumb is shortened by "approximately one centimeter" (less than a half-inch) and he "struggles to dress himself" due to the injury.
BMW markets the soft close door feature as a way of providing “comfortable door closing without making noise and to close the door safely at any time.”
The “BMW Technology Guide” says upon partial closure of the door to the secondary latch position and “[w]hen the door is within approximately 6 [millimeters] (mm) of the lock, a sensor activates an electric motor that pulls the door firmly and quietly close[s] and secures it.”
According to the plaintiff, BMW failed to warn him about the dangers of placing his hand in a closing door and how the soft close feature could injure him. But BMW pointed to the owner's manual that has an exclamation point within a yellow triangle within a square.
The warning informs the owner about the automatic soft closing feature, advises owners to close the doors lightly, and warns them about the “danger of pinching” and to “[m]ake sure that the closing path of the door is clear; otherwise, injuries may result.”
Lawsuit documents allege because of the injury to his thumb, the self-employed software engineer will lose about $3 million in future wages and BMW is allegedly responsible for the loss.
Motion to Dismiss the BMW Soft Close Door Lawsuit
BMW argues a person should know better than to place their hand or fingers in a closing door, especially one that closes automatically.
In a separate lawsuit filed by different BMW owners, a judge ruled in 2017 that humans have been slamming their fingers in doors since doors were invented and the doors on BMW's vehicles are no exception. The lawsuit was dismissed.
But this time BMW must face a trial after the judge found the plaintiff met the “burden of presenting evidence that the product . . . feasibly could have been designed more safely.”
BMW argues the soft close feature worked exactly as it was designed to work. Within a certain distance of the door being closed, the feature automatically pulled the door securely closed and latched.
But the judge says it's possible design defects caused the thumb injury even though the plaintiff admitted to BMW it was "an accident, so my finger got in there and it just automatically closed over it."
The lawsuit also says BMW failed to provide adequate warnings about the dangers posed by the automatic soft close door feature, even though the owner's manual clearly warns about the dangers.
BMW argues anyone would know not to place their hand or anything else in the path of a closing door.
“Plaintiff understood since childhood, not to put a finger or body part in between a door and its door frame while it is closing.” — BMW
But the judge did not agree and "concludes that there are genuine issues of material fact concerning Defendants’ warning was adequate, and the extent of Plaintiff’s knowledge of the danger presented" by the soft close door feature.
The judge said that even with a warning, maybe the plaintiff didn't understand the danger of the soft close feature.
While BMW says it is simple common sense not to place your hand in the path of a closing door and the plaintiff should have read the warning, the judge ruled that BMW could still be held responsible even if the plaintiff didn't read the warning.
"Courts have found that 'a plaintiff . . . may be able to prevail under New York law with respect to his failure to warn claim, even though it is undisputed that he failed to read the warnings, if he can demonstrate that adequate warnings would have come to the attention of a third party . . .and they would have informed him of those warnings.'" — Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto
In other words, the judge says even if the plaintiff ignored the warning, maybe another person could have read the warning and then warned the BMW owner about the danger posed by a soft close door.
And in another blow to BMW, the automaker argues the soft close door feature worked exactly as designed and "is fit for its ordinary purposes, but the Court finds that there are genuine disputes of material facts as to the 'ordinary purpose' of the soft-close automatic door."
In the end, the judge dismissed BMW's motion to preclude expert testimony and denied BMW's motions for summary judgment for design defect and failure to warn claims, breach of implied warranty claims, and Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and New York General Business Law claims.
But the judge granted BMW's motions for summary judgment to the plaintiff’s manufacturing defect, breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, Automobile Information Disclosure Act and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims.
The BMW soft close door injury lawsuit was filed in the the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York - Godwin Boateng v. BMW of North America, LLC, et al.
The plaintiff is represented by the A. Cohen Law Firm, PC.