A Philadelphia jury has cleared Hyundai Motor America in a case challenging the company's passive seat belt design.
In 1992, Marilyn Camba Orito was a front-seat passenger in a 1990 Hyundai Excel rental car when it hit a tree head-on at 25 to 30 mph. She died soon after the accident; the hospital determined that her liver had been lacerated.
Her husband, Ernesto Orito, sued Hyundai in 1993, contending his wife had rolled out of the seat belt because it did not restrain her lower torso. His lawsuit also said the seat design was defective because it was not ramped sufficiently to prevent excessive forward excursion of the hips before the lap belt had any effect, a problem that allowed the abdomen and liver to be in direct contact with the shoulder belt.
Orito also challenged the design of the knee bolster, the location of a lap belt anchorage point and the lack of an adjustable upper anchorage on the passive shoulder belt.
Hyundai lawyers argued Orito was out of position in the seat because she was trying to grab the steering wheel as the driver, her brother, lost control of the car at an intersection on her street.
A crash test at the same speed using a female dummy of the same height, 5 feet 2 inches, did not result in the dummy rolling out of the seat belt, said Hyundai attorney Thomas Vanderford Jr. of Fountain Valley, Calif.
The Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County jury found that the Excel's automatic shoulder belt and manual lap belt system did not cause Orito's death.
A paralegal for the plaintiff's attorney, Larry Coben of Scotts-dale, Ariz., told Automotive News no appeal will be filed.