PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - A state court jury here has ordered TRW Inc. to pay $2.7 million to the family of a 73-year-old woman who was crushed to death after her seat belt became unfastened and she was tossed from a Ford Bronco.
The seat belt, made by TRW Inc., has been used in 130 vehicle models, and is a popular and widely used seat-belt system. About 500 million belts are in use worldwide.
Dot Strickland was a passenger in the vehicle when the accident occurred in 1993. She was ejected from the Bronco, which rolled over her and crushed her chest.
Attorneys for the family told a 20th Judicial Circuit Court here that Strickland would not have been ejected if the seat belt had worked properly.
'A paper clip got stuck inside the seat-belt buckle and caused it to appear locked even though it was not,' said plaintiff's attorney Joe Reiter. 'There is no way a seat belt should give way unless there is a defect.'
Jay McCaffrey, a spokesman for TRW, said, 'We have filed a motion for a new trial, and if that is denied we intend to pursue an appeal.'
Added McCaffrey: 'It is our position that the belt is not defective.'