Paraplegic Woman Sues GM for Third-Degree Burns Caused by a Chevy Suburban

Chevrolet Suburban 1 photo
Photo: Chevrolet
Most of you have done it. It's a long drive and your significant other or your buddy sleeps soundly in the passenger seat. Just to spice things up a bit, you turn the seat heater on and gingerly wait for him or her to wake up in a pool of sweat, shouting at you for the prank you pulled off. These apparently tame pranks can go seriously wrong sometimes and this is one of those unfortunate instances.
Cue Emma Verrill, a 26-year-old woman from Maine that got third-degree burns back in 2012 after sleeping the night in her friend's Chevrolet Suburban. Emma, who moves in a wheelchair because of her paraplegia, doesn't feel anything from the waist down. She didn't knew that the seat's heater was turned on and when she woke up, Emma discovered seriously nasty burns on her skin.

She told the Portland Press Herald that her buttocks were so seriously burned that she needed surgery and a heck of a lot of time in bed to heal. Two years since that unfortunate accident, Emma Verrill sued General Motors at the District Court in Portland. She accused GM for failing to limit the maximum temperature of the Suburban's heated rear seats, temperatures that "would burn human flesh.”

She's got a point. Remember how the Liebeck vs. McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit concluded back in 1994? Yeah, the plaintiff got $2.86 million from the fast food corporation for the pelvic region third-degree burns she got from spilling a hot cup of coffee in her lap. Attorneys told that the coffee was 180 to 190 degrees (82 - 88 degrees Celsius) hot when it happened. And guess what? Some heated seats can go up to 150 degrees and human skin can be severely burned in just 10 minutes at just 120 degrees.

So basically, the lady has this case in the bag and the auto industry should've been aware that something like this might happen. In a 9-page filling, General Motors has denied accusations of the seat heater being defective or dangerous to operate, as well as Verrill's injuries. If Emma and General Motors fail to reach a settlement, the case will be headed to trail by May 2015.

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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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