$976 Million Jury Verdict in Defective Seat Belt Case

On November 11, 2017, Francis Amagasu’s life changed forever when the seat belt in his 1992 Mitsubishi 3000GT failed to restrain him during a 45-mph rollover crash in Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania. As a result, he suffered catastrophic spinal cord injuries that left him unable to move his arms or legs.

But almost exactly six years later, on October 30, 2023, attorneys at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., along with co-counsel from Farrar & Ball, LLP, secured justice for Mr. Amagasu when a jury returned a $976 million verdict in a lawsuit Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck filed on Mr. Amagasu’s behalf. The jury unanimously awarded $176 million in compensatory damages and $800 million more in punitive damages.

This verdict is believed to be the largest ever crashworthiness verdict in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest ever in Philadelphia, the U.S., and against Mitsubishi.

The lawsuit claimed Mitsubishi was reckless in its design of the seat belt in Mr. Amagasu’s car, and that the company acted with reckless disregard for the safety of Mr. Amagasu and other consumers of the vehicle. Specifically, the seat belt would not prevent the driver from being partially ejected or crushed in a rollover crash even if it was used correctly. The seat belt Mitsubishi installed in Mr. Amagasu’s car was a “rip-stitch” seat belt, which is designed to rip apart during a crash and become a few inches longer to better manage the forces in a crash. But when his seat belt ripped, Mr. Amagasu’s head was forced into the car’s roof, causing him to break his neck.

Notably, Mr. Amagasu’s son was riding with him in the passenger seat with his seatbelt on when the crash happened. His son received minor injuries in the crash.

“Throughout the trial, we showed the jury what we thought was overwhelming evidence that Mitsubishi was reckless when it installed a defective seat belt in Mr. Amagasu’s vehicle,” said Nancy Winkler, one of Mr. Amagasu’s attorneys. “Clearly, the jury agreed.”

Before the accident, Mr. Amagasu was a master woodworker. His grandfather, George Nakashima, was an acclaimed artist whose works are on display in the Smithsonian. But since the accident, he’s lived in a rehab facility for the past six years and has had to relearn basic human functions, including how to speak.

“Mr. Amagasu may never walk again because of Mitsubishi’s recklessness, but the jury’s verdict means he will be able to return home to live with his wife and son and receive care there,” said Daniel J. Sherry, Jr., another of Mr. Amagasu’s attorneys. “We are so happy for Mr. Amagasu and his family that he will be able to go home again.”

Mr. Amagasu’s legal team also includes Stewart J. Eisenberg, Frederic S. Eisenberg, and Jessica Colliver from Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., along with Kyle Farrar and Wesley Todd Ball of Farrar & Ball, LLP.

News of the verdict was covered in numerous media outlets, including Law360, The Legal Intelligencer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Reuters.

The case is Amagasu et al. v. Mitsubishi Motors North America et al., Number 181102406, in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

It takes a specific mindset, specialized skills and substantial resources. The types of cases we handle are not the average personal injury. They involve severe, permanent injuries to people that radically affect their lives forever, or in some instances, even cause their death.