A federal magistrate in North Carolina has tossed out a lawsuit because a car was not equipped with the component that allegedly caused a fatal fire upon collision.
U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Brent McKnight said no evidence was offered to prove that a 1993 Infiniti G20 driven by Linda Hoskins had a seat belt pretensioner.
In 1996, Hoskins was forced off the road by approaching traffic, then collided nearly head-on with another car as she returned to the roadway. Her Infiniti burst into flames on impact, and she died from injuries caused by the fire.
The suit by Hoskins' estate against Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A. contended that the car was defective because combustion gas generated by the activation of the pretensioner ignited, causing the fire. No other defects were alleged. The estate sought damages for negligence, breach of warranty and fraud.
McKnight granted Nissan's motion to dismiss the case without trial, saying a Nissan engineer inspected the car after the crash and determined it had not been equipped with a pretensioner. He also referred to the engineer's affidavit that Hoskins' car was made before G20s received pretensioners.
As a result, the estate cannot prove that the G20 was defective or that a defective condition caused Hoskins' death, he ruled.
Nissan's lawyer, R. Leonard Rowe of Charlotte, said, 'They kept claiming there was a pretensioner when there wasn't.' And although a recall notice was issued for the pretensioners, Hoskins' Infiniti 'was outside the VIN range of cars equipped with the pretensioner.'
The estate's lawyer, Lawrence Davidson of Charlotte, plans to ask McKnight to reopen the case, adding: 'We have additional information that we didn't have before.'