• Apr 30th 2010 at 10:01AM
  • 100
Sarah Goodner was killed in Texas in 2007 when her 2005 Hyundai Tucson rolled over and she was thrown out the back window. The culprit for that odd circumstance – even though she had her seat belt fastened – was her seat, which was reclined so far back that she was able to slide out of it.

Stuart Goodner, Sarah's father, sued Hyundai claiming that the Tucson was unsafe because the seat could be reclined too much. A jury agreed, kind of, awarding Goodner a $1.8 million judgment against Hyundai, but also deciding that Hyundai was only 45% responsible for Sarah's death. Stuart said, "We want people to know how dangerous it is to drive with the seat reclined, [and] we're calling the auto industry out to correct this design defect so that no other family has to bury one of their children."

Forty-five degrees was determined to be the maximum amount of recline before driving became unsafe. And the issue isn't new: The NTSB and NHTSA debated the issue in 1988 and couldn't come to an agreement. Of course we can't make light of this – a young woman has died. But we do wonder why it's Hyundai's responsibility to make sure you don't drive your car in an unsafe manner. We suspect we haven't heard the last of this...

[Source: Go San Angelo]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Apparently, everyone missed where it was posted that the person who died WASN'T DRIVING. She was in the passenger seat. Has nothing to do with operating the vehicle improperly. That said, it's STILL not the manufacturer's fault IMO. If carried to it's logical conclusion, this issue seems to support that seats should not be able to recline beyond a point where they can support (and allow the passive restraint system to restrain) a passenger in any foreseeable crash. Kind of crazy but, there IS a degree of logic to it I guess.
      Watch, at some point, some OEM will come out with a seat recliner that's tied to the PCM. Will only allow seats to recline beyond X-degrees if the car is stationary.
      • 5 Years Ago
      America – the land where it pays to be stupid.
      • 5 Years Ago
      For crying out loud, people, they're not talking about DRIVING with the seat reclined. Yes, that would be stupidity on the part of the operator. However, from the linked article, "The vehicle, being driven by Rebekah Goodner, Sarah’s sister, veered off the road and rolled over. Sarah Goodner was hurled out the back window."

      The young woman who died was the PASSENGER. She was sleeping, which is what the 'recline' feature of the vehicle is designed for. This isn't a 'frivolous' suit; if reclining the seat puts you in this kind of danger, then Hyundai needs to either warn against it, or make the seat in such a way to stop this from happening.
        • 5 Years Ago
        For crying out loud, people, they're not talking about DRIVING with their head out the side window. Yes, that would be stupidity on the part of the operator. However, from the linked article, "The vehicle, being driven by Rebekah Goodner, Sarah’s sister, veered off the road and rolled over. Sarah Goodner was decapitated."

        The young woman who died was the PASSENGER. She was getting fresh air, which is what the roll-down window feature of the vehicle is designed for. This isn't a 'frivolous' suit; if opening your window and putting your head out puts you in this kind of danger, then Hyundai needs to either warn against it, or make the window in such a way to stop this from happening.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Obviously you are one of those people who lack common sense that keeps you from getting yourself hurt or killed.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hyundai DID warn about it: From page 13 of the 2005 Tucson Owner's Manual, in a big yellow box labeled WARNING with a big black triangle with an exclamation mark in the middle of it:

        To minimize risk of severe injury in the
        event of a collision or a sudden stop, both
        the driver and passenger seatbacks should
        always be in an upright position while the
        vehicle is in motion. The protection provided
        by the seat belts and airbags in a
        frontal collision may be reduced significantly
        when the seatbacks are reclined.
        There is greater risk that the driver and
        passenger will slide under the seat belt
        which may result in serious injury if a crash
        occurs when the seatbacks are reclined.
        The seat belt and airbags cannot provide
        proper protection to an occupant if the seat
        back is reclined.

        She should have read her manual before driving.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It should be pretty obvious to the person sitting in the seat that once fully reclined, the seat and passive restraint have seriously reduced protection levels. Unfortunately, the average person is pretty dense, and in this country, it's up to the manufacturer to try to prepare for all the ways a consumer could possibly misuse their product, and make some attempt to warn against or inhibit their stupidity.
        And you wonder why lawyers make so much, and consumer goods are so over-priced here?
        • 5 Years Ago
        How the hell are people getting that she was a passenger from the above article? I just read through it a few times to make sure I didn't misread it, I can find nothing in the AB article that says she was the passenger.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I dont mean to disrespect the death of a person but, really? whats next ?Someone will flip a convertible and win a lawsuit because its unsafe?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe they will put in a tranmission interlock so you cant put the car in drive if the seats are reclined more than 45 degrees?!?!

      Seriously, what a stupid lawsuit, everyone is out looking for a payday. Every day I see some dumb teenager driving with his seat so far back he cant see over the steering wheel, even when they lean forward. WTF?!?!? What is the point of leaning the seat back that far if you are going to lean forward to drive? How is that even comfortable?? I can just see the flood of lawsuits coming now...
      • 5 Years Ago
      More damn insanity from NHTSA.

      Are you freakin' kidding me?

      Why is this a regulation?

      Let me get this straight.... It isn't that the seats are breaking, and falling backwards into a horizontal, fully reclined position, without the user's command to do so.

      It is that the mechanism is designed that when the lever is pulled, ON PURPOSE, that the seat is capable of reclining past 45 degrees, in the case that someone wanted that, and made the effort to do so.

      Is that right?

      If someone is driving around in a horizontal position while looking at the headliner of their vehicle, because the seat is reclined horizontally, then that is a moving violation for failure to maintain control of your motor vehicle. BECAUSE YOU CAN'T REACH THE DAMN STEERING WHEEL LIKE THAT.

      Why the hell do they CARE how far the seat can recline, as long as they don't break under normal use?

      There must be no common sense left, if that is a law suit... and it won.

      What the hell happened to the precept that just because it can, doesn't mean you should?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I bet the fix will be something along the lines of the warning lights/dingers for passengers not wearing seatbelts. If seatback angle > 45 and speed>0, annoy the crap out of them until they decide to put it back up. More effective than a warning message, but probably will add a couple bucks to the price of a seat...

        • 5 Years Ago

        Physics is a law of nature, and that law enforces itself.

        If you get into an accident where two objects try to take up the same space, at the same time, you can be hurt or even killed.

        If you recline your seat past the seatbelt anchor point, the seatbelt cannot hold you into your seat.

        I am sorry that a woman died. It is unfortunate. But people die every day, by their own fault sometimes, and by no fault of their own sometimes.

        But blaming hyundai for someone's decision to be reclined in a car, when it is patently obvious that a shoulder harness seatbelt that is anchored to the door pillar cannot hold you into a reclined seat... it is a mixture of unfortunate accident, and a choice to recline your seat back.

        Simply because hyundai puts recliners on their seats shouldn't have made them liable for someone's intentional use of that feature.

        What is Hyundai supposed to do? put rigid back chairs in their cars?

        There will probably be a new screen-printed warning on the sun-visor from now on, saying that if you recline your seat, your seatbelt and airbag might not be effective...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yeah, if it's in the owner's manual, I'd say Hyundai is absolved of any blame. Yes, she was wearing her seat belt. Yes, the seats are designed to recline. So to follow the apparent train of logic, if I decide to go take a nap in my hammock under a shade tree during a thunderstorm and just happen to get struck by lightning and die, my mom has the right to sue? I'm sorry, but in that instance, my own stupidity would be the cause of my death, not the hammock manufacturers. "But, your honor, he was wearing tennis shoes!"

      And was this girl really sticking her head out the fracking window? Sleeping with her head out the window? Didn't she hear about what happened to Def Leppard's drummer? Damn, and that was just his arm.

      Here's your sign.
      • 5 Years Ago
      great, more bs. enjoy the money stuart, u crook. I offer my condolences to Hyundai.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Stupid people shouldn't be drivers. It's as simple as that.

      My car doesn't move until everyone is belted up. Untill all objects that could fly around in a crash and bash your head in are in the trunk. Untill all children settle down and don't distract the driver.

      Stupid people shouldn't be drivers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I always wondered why, the newer the car, the less the seat reclined.

      I'd like to know how many people get flung out of a properly belted, non-reclined seat? Any more lawsuits like this and we will all be traveling in coach class airliner seats.

      The article should be titled, "Daughter dies, so dad gets rich." It is amazing how people think $$$ can fix emotional pain. Maybe he should not have rolled the car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I see people driving with their seats reclined all the time. It's very unsafe. I hope Hyundai appeals this verdict. It's truly not their fault. It's kinda like being sued because the driver didn't turn his headlights on at night.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The problem isn't that the seats recline too far; instead, if seats are made to recline beyond 45 degrees, they need a different type of seat restraints, like those used in race cars. The jury got it partially right, but the result of the jury's verdict will be that newer seats won't go past 45 degrees, and that's a real shame.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Racing type harnesses require that a vehicle has a roll-cage or you are building a much deadlier trap.
        With a racing harness your upper body is stuck in upright position, if there is any deformation of the roof your head has nowhere to go. This is why race cars have a roll cage to that there will not be any roof deformation.
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