Keith Herschbach was a driver who was restrained by a motorized, passive shoulder belt when his vehicle collided with a second vehicle in an intersection on rural roads. The second vehicle had run a stop sign, and Herschbach was not wearing the available manual lap belt. Herschbach died of his injuries a few hours after the accident.
Plaintiff claimed that Herschbach's vehicle was defective unless the manual lap belt was worn and that the defendant automobile manufacturer failed to adequately warn that the restraint system was dangerous unless the lap belt was worn.
Plaintiff was represented by prominent southern Illinois plaintiff lawyer Bruce Cook, who examined four of the defendant automobile manufacturer's employees, including its senior vice president for safety engineering, under adverse cross-examination over seven days. Similarly, he cross-examined the defendant's three retained expert witnesses for five days.
Counsel for the co-defendant second vehicle's driver also blamed the Herschbach's vehicle's restraint system even after admitting his client’s negligence and causation for the death.
Mr. Cook asked the jury to find the automobile manufacturer liable and to award $6 million in damages.
The jury rejected plaintiff’s claims after only two hours of deliberation, finding the co-defendant second vehicle driver to be the sole cause of the death and assessing damages against him only of $1.5 million.