A Texas jury has awarded more than $242 million to a Dallas-area family who sued Toyota over what they said were defective front seats in their 2002 Lexus sedan.
Attorneys for Benjamin and Kristi Reavis alleged defects in their 2002 Lexus ES 300 caused their front seat backs to collapse backward in a September 2016 rear-end collision on Central Expressway near Downtown Dallas.
The Reavises children, 5-year-old Emily and 3-year-old Owen, were in the back seat, in their child safety seats, at the time of the crash. Both children were rushed to the hospital with severe head trauma.
"It's a life-long injury," Kristi Reavis said.
The Reavis' attorney, Frank Branson, said Toyota consciously chose to protect front-seat occupants from crash injuries such as whiplash at the expense of rear-seat passengers.
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In the days that followed, Ben Reavis said he noticed something looking at his wrecked sedan that got his gears turning.
"I realized at that time that our front seats were laying back into the back seat and then that's when it started clicking that there was something wrong," he said.
A lawsuit later filed by Branson on behalf of the Reavis family claims the vehicle is "unreasonably dangerous and defectively designed" because the front seats and restraint systems "can and do fail during rear impact collisions."
"These children have just been devastated, brain-wise and injury-wise, and there's no question it'll cost the kind of money that the jury found to take care of them," Branson said.
The Dallas County jury determined Friday that the seats were unreasonably dangerous and Toyota failed to warn of those dangers.
"It won't ever help our children but maybe it can help other children and that's the relief that we feel with the verdict," Kristi Branson said.
In a statement, Toyota said it sympathized with the Reavises and respects the jury's decision, but believed the injuries resulted from factors specific to the collision, not defects.
Attorneys for the Reavis family expect an appeal.