A plaintiff’s strict liability claim failed because she was unable to establish that the failure of a driver-side air bag to deploy was the proximate cause of the death of the plaintiff’s decedent. Klootwyk v. DaimlerChrysler Corporation, et al., No. 01 C 6127; N.D. Ill., May 7, 2003.
Lorraine Klootwyk’s husband was killed in a one-car automobile accident wherein he operated a vehicle designed and manufactured by DaimlerChrysler. She filed a two-count lawsuit against Daimler-Chrysler claiming strict product liability and negligence. Specifically, she claimed that the driver-side air bag system was defectively designed and was the cause of her husband’s injury and death. Because she failed to respond to DaimlerChrysler’s summary judgment motion, the court was procedurally required to admit the facts as provided in DaimlerChrysler’s motion. The defendant corporation was granted summary judgment against the plaintiff. The defendant alleged that the decedent had a heart condition and that the decedent actually suffered a heart attack prior to the automobile accident. After the decedent’s heart attack, the car rolled off the road. The defendant alleged that the driver-side air bag did not deploy because the speed of the car did not reach its necessary threshold. The court, in granting summary judgment, held that the plaintiff’s strict liability claim did not pass its three-prong test. First, the court could not find that the failure of the driver-side air- bag to deploy was the proximate cause of the decedent’s death. The plaintiff failed to present evidence that the deployment failure was the probable (not merely possible) cause of the decedent’s death. Because the plaintiff provided no evidence of causation, her claim could not pass summary judgment. Second, the plaintiff failed to establish that the failure of the air bag to deploy at the speed of the decedent’s automobile at the time of the accident was unreasonably dangerous; and, third, the plaintiff failed to establish that the condition existed at the time the automobile left the defendant’s control. As to her negligence claim, the court found she failed to establish that the defendant owed and breached a specific duty toward the plaintiff. Moreover, to sustain a negligence claim, the plaintiff was also required to show that the driver-side air bag was dangerous when it was designed.
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