Evidence of Non-Use of Seatbelts results in New Trial

Posted on: June 26th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A 2009 opinion of the PA Superior Court resulted in a new trial granted to the Estate of a Pennsylvania motor vehicle accident victim. A pick-up driver approached an intersection in Lackawanna PA where the stop sign had been knocked down. He applied his brakes and skidded thru the intersection hitting an embankment. When the emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they found the Pike County PA personal injury victim dead in the passenger seat.

A wrongful death claim was filed with the Pike County Court of Common Pleas against Ford Motor Co. – the manufacturer of the pick-up truck. A product liability claim was presented to the jury based upon the legal theory that the airbag system was defective. The Pike County trial judge permitted Ford to present evidence that the pick-up truck driver was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Defendant.

The personal injury attorney filed an appeal based upon Section 4581 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code. The PA Superior Court agreed that Pennsylvania Law prohibits the admissibility of the non-use of seat belts into evidence. A new trial was granted to the Estate of the accident victim. Gaudio v. Ford Motor Co., 976 A.2d 524 (PA Super. 2009)

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