By Jon Hood

June 16, 2010
A Pennsylvania woman claims in a lawsuit that the seatbelt on her Toyota Prius failed during a head-on accident, causing her "catastrophic spine and spinal cord injuries" that rendered her a quadriplegic.

Jacqueline McCosh, was making a right-hand turn off of Blevins Road in Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania, when another driver crossed the double yellow line and ran head-on into her 2006 Prius. Although McCosh was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident, the suit alleges that the belt failed to tighten to the extent necessary to keep her in her seat.

The complaint, filed last week in Philadelphia County Court, contends that "the driver's occupant restraint system and seatbelt system had an unreasonable propensity to 'spool out'...and was incapable of properly restraining occupants wearing their seatbelt and failed to adequately restrain and contain occupants of the vehicle."

The suit charges that Toyota "knew or should have known that the subject Prius was defective, unsafe and not crashworthy," and that it sold the vehicle "willfully, recklessly, wantonly and with a reckless disregard for the safety of the American motoring public."

McCosh says Toyota failed to test its seatbelts adequately to ensure they functioned properly, failed to warn customers of the danger inherent in the Prius's seatbelts and "misrepresent[ed] the safety of the Toyota Prius including the driver's side seatbelt system."

The suit says that, in addition to medical expenses, McCosh and her husband "have suffered lost wages, disability and the impairment of Jacqueline McCosh's earning power and capacity," along with "a permanent diminution in the ability to enjoy life and life's pleasures." The McCoshes have also experienced "past pain and suffering, mental anguish and...emotional distress," the suit says.

It's been a rough year for Toyota, which in January recalled millions of cars due to the danger of unintended acceleration, an issue that began drawing attention last fall. The automaker stopped selling cars for nearly a week after announcing the recall, and is now facing hundreds of class action suits relating to the defect, many of which have been consolidated into a single action in a California federal court.

Along with Toyota, the suit names as defendants Tokai Rika, which designs and manufactures seatbelts for Toyota; and Adam Kaisler, the driver of the car that hit McCosh. The suit charges Toyota and Tokai Rika with negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, and loss of consortium.