A Morristown, New Jersey jury has returned a $US14.4 million verdict on behalf of a man who suffered paralysing injuries after his 1995 Nissan Maxima was involved in a car accident.

On October 31, 1997, William Ziemer, 45, was driving his 1995 Nissan Maxima GXE when a car coming the other way crossed the centre line.  The front driver’s side of each car impacted.

Ziemer sustained permanent brain damage as well as extensive and severe lower extremity injury.  He will never walk again and has the mentality of a child.

Product liability attorney Cynthia Walters argued that the car was defective due to its lack of crashworthiness due to design elements that permitted unreasonable intrusion into the driver compartment causing the catastrophic injuries.

It was shown at trial that the identical car was sold in Europe with the reinforcements that would have protected Ziemer and that they were not added to US models until 1996.

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“This verdict shows that automobile manufacturers who have the technology must use it to protect occupants of their cars,” Walters said.

The jury award consisted of $3.5 million for Ziemer’s loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering; $4.2 million for future care and medical costs; $1.2 million in lost wages; $2.5 million for his wife and $1 million for each of the children.


**Editor’s note: Similar accusations of the omission of structural safety features were made against the New Zealand operations of both Ford and Mazda during the  1990s.

The two companies initially did not include internal door-mounted side impact protection bars in the Mazda 626 and near-identical Ford Telstar models assembled from CKD kits in the joint venture Vehicle Assemblers of New Zealand factory in South Auckland from 1992 to 1996.

The side impact beams – fitted as standard in some other export markets – were added to the New Zealand 626/Telstar specification after media reports exposed their absence.