Sarah Milburn Uber Honda Odyssey crash left Texas woman a quadriplegic.

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Texas Supreme Court Reverses Sarah Milburn / Honda Seat Belt Award
Sarah Milburn Uber Honda Odyssey crash left Texas woman a quadriplegic.

— The Texas Supreme Court has erased a $26 million verdict against Honda in the case of Sarah Milburn, who was left a quadriplegic in a crash of a 2011 Honda Odyssey minivan driven by Uber driver Arian Yusufzai.

On the night of November 14, 2015, Sarah Milburn, at the time 23, went out with five friends to a Dallas bar. The group then decided to meet with other friends at a different bar shortly after midnight.

According to court documents, a member of the group called an Uber and Uber driver Arian Yusufzai picked them up in a 2011 Honda Odyssey.

Sarah Milburn sat in the third-row middle seat, but the seat’s detachable anchor was not latched and the webbing was retracted into the ceiling-mounted retractor.

Milburn fastened her seat belt by pulling the belt down from the ceiling across her body and attaching it to the buckle at her left hip. This left the lap belt unbelted.

However, there was conflicting evidence presented at trial regarding whether Milburn was wearing her seat belt at all.

As the Uber Honda Odyssey entered an intersection, a pickup truck hit the minivan on the passenger side causing it to overturn and come to rest on its roof.

The lawsuit says Milburn moved forward and to the right until her neck was “clotheslined” by the shoulder-strap portion of the belt.

The other five passengers exited the minivan unassisted, but paramedics extracted Milburn on a backboard and took her to the hospital.

The severe injuries to her cervical vertebrae sadly rendered her a quadriplegic.

According to the lawsuit, the seat belt is a two-part system where the occupant grabs a detachable shoulder strap from the ceiling and anchors it to the seat. The belt is then pulled across the hips and buckled.

The Odyssey’s owner’s manual contains warnings about using the seat belt when the anchor is detached, and an additional warning label is located on the seat belt itself.

Honda has always argued the seat belt and design met all federal safety standards and there were no defects in the seat belt system.

Sarah Milburn Uber Honda Odyssey Lawsuit Court Rulings

Not only did the Texas jury find Honda responsible for Milburn's injuries because of an allegedly faulty seat belt design, the jury ruled, "regulations governing seat belts in passenger cars were inadequate to protect the public from harm."

This has been seen in other automotive jury trials where the jury plays the role of federal safety regulators by finding alleged defects in products which met all federal safety and design standards.

The jury found Honda would pay about $37 million to compensate Milburn for her injuries, but the trial court reduced the amount awarded and said Honda would pay just under $26 million in damages and prejudgment interest.

Results of the trial, an appeals court ruling and the Texas Supreme Court decision show how different judges can read the same laws and reach completely different conclusions.

Honda appealed the verdict, but the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas left the verdict and award in place. Honda then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

In reversing the huge award, the Texas Supreme Court found the "2011 Odyssey’s design complied with mandatory federal safety standards that were applicable to the Odyssey at the time of manufacture and governed the product risk that allegedly caused harm, entitling Honda to a presumption of nonliability."

"We further hold that the presumption was not rebutted, as no evidence supports the jury’s finding that the federal safety standards failed to adequately protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and render a take-nothing judgment for Honda."

The Sarah Milburn Honda Odyssey seat belt lawsuit was originally filed in the 116th Civil District Court of Dallas County: Sarah Milburn v. American Honda Motor Co. Inc.


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