Nail-Biting BMW Sued for Costing a Man His Finger

Getting a finger trapped betwen a closing door and a very hard place is perhaps the most painful experience you can go through and survive. Except, perhaps, stepping on a LEGO.
Man demonstrating how he lost his finger to a BMW 1 photo
Photo: The New York Post
Usually, such occurrences take place when you or another slam the door over skin, muscle and bone. But how do you react when a piece of equipment does it on purpose? And with such force that you don’t only get bruised, but lose a part of yourself? Like, say, a thumb.

That’s what a 61-year old engineer from New York, named Godwin Boateng, claims happened to him last year. And by claim we mean he filed a lawsuit. Against BMW.

The official story is that, while he was waiting by the car, right hand on the driver’s door column, the Soft Closing Doors system on his X5 activated due to faulty sensors and pressed so hard that it chopped his thumb off.

“With the front driver’s door approximately one-foot ajar, the SCAD [Soft Closing Automatic Doors] sensor activated the electric motor, which pulled the driver’s door firmly, and not ‘so softly’ snapped through the flesh, nerves, blood vessels, tendons, musculature and bone structure of Boateng’s right thumb,” The New York Post says, citing court papers.

Technically, it’s not very clear how such an event occur. By definition, the Soft Closing system is supposed to just that, slowly close the doors.

According to official specs, if you're not doing a good enough job at closing the door yourself, the sensor detects it at approximately 0.2 inches from the lock. Not at one foot, as the man claims. That means it only activates when the door is 98 percent closed anyway.

Once the latch catches the handle, an electric motor is turned on and closes the door down firmly. BMW says you can always manually open the door at any moment.

For this New Yorker’s story to be true, it would imply both the sensors and the electric motors of the system have failed.

Usually, when a sensor fails, it doesn't detect things. Very plausible. When a motor fails, it stops working. In this case, the motors seem to have gotten a boost of power, so that to slam the door on the man's finger before he realized it. Very unlikely.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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