Cook County Car Crash Leaves Teenage Girl a Quadriplegic: Settlement Reached

A Cook County personal injury lawsuit involving an Illinois auto accident that left a 19 year-old girl a quadriplegic recently received a $6.05 million settlement. The bulk of the settlement in Perez v. Baeza, et al., No. 09 L 3958 came from Sparco, a distributor of race car seats that was involved in the case under product liability claims. Sparco contributed $6 million, which was the full extent of its insurance policy.

The events leading to the case began in 2005 when Perez’s boyfriend, Baeza, was driving them home from a quinceañera, i.e. a coming of age celebration for a 15 year-old girl. Baeza had been drinking and was speeding along when his car left the roadway and struck a tree. He was later charged with an aggravated DUI.

At the time of the Illinois car crash Perez was a passenger in the front seat. Baeza had modified the front seats of his car, replacing the factory-installed seats with race car seats distributed by the California-based Sparco Motor Sports, Inc. Perez was left a quadriplegic as a result of the auto accident.

The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the race car seats lacked adequate seat belts for passengers and were not properly bolted into the car’s floor. A product liability claim was brought against Sparco alleging that the seat distributor failed to provide adequate warnings and instructions on how to install the seats.

When involving a third party that was not directly involved in a personal injury, such as Sparco, the third-party plaintiff must prove that the third-party defendant’s actions caused or contributed to the injury. So in a case like Perez, typically the defendant in the personal injury claim, which in this case is Baeza, would bring an action against any other parties who were liable for the injury. According to the theory of liability in this case, Perez would not have sustained the spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic if the passenger seats had been anchored to the floor.

In addition to the driver, Baeza, and the seat manufacturer, there were two other defendants that contributed to the settlement. The facility and banquet hall where Baeza had been drinking prior to the auto crash was involved under the Dram Shop Act and contribute $27,500 towards the final settlement. In addition, the nursing home and rehabilitation facility where Perez treated following the accident contributed $195,000 for its part in contributing to the bed sores Perez developed.

While some cases are very simple and involve one plaintiff and one defendant, Illinois personal injury lawsuits are becoming increasingly complex. Furthermore, in the present state of the economy insurance companies are becoming more interested in finding additional parties that can help share the responsibility of an individual’s injury and are employing their attorneys to prove alternate theories of liability that shift the burden from their company to someone else.

In Perez, even though the event causing her injury was a car crash, the subsequent lawsuit and settlement involved not only the driver, but the car seat manufacturer, the facility where the driver had been drinking, and the medical center where the plaintiff was subsequently treated. It will be interesting to see whether we begin to see more and more Illinois personal injury lawsuits like Perez.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois car accident lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Melrose Park, Lincolnwood, Evergreen Park, and Wheaton.

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