A 26-year-old Maine woman who says she suffered a third-degree burn from a heated seat in Chevrolet Suburban is now suing General Motors.
Emma Verrill says in her suit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, that GM failed to test the rear seat heaters to prevent them from reaching dangerously high temperatures that would be able to burn skin. Verrill’s lawsuit comes as General Motors has been nationally criticized for serious safety defects in other vehicle models.
In 2014 alone, General Motors has recalled more than 20 million vehicles. The company issued nearly all of those recalls after first recalling 2.6 million older Chevrolet Cobalts and similar cars with defective ignition switches that have been tied to dozens of crashes and at least 13 deaths.
None of those recalls involved heated seats in General Motors’ Suburban line, one of its largest sport utility vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not received any consumer complaints about the vehicles’ seat heaters. GM denied the seat heater was defective or dangerous, denied causing Verrill’s injury, and denied knowledge of a defect or failure to fix a defect.
Verrill is paralyzed from the waist down and can’t feel hot and cold in her lower body, which is why she was not able to feel the extremely hot seat on her body. Her burn was so serious that it required surgery and months in bed. She’s seeking unspecified damages. General Motors has filed a court response denying Verrill’s claims. In the nine-page filing, GM denied the seat heater was defective or dangerous, denied it caused Verrill’s injury and denied knowledge of a defect or failure to fix a defect.
While it’s apparent that this is an uncommon circumstance and personal injury claim, it may still be valid. Emma is paralyzed and was unable to feel the seat heater burning her skin, but that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t or can’t be compensated for the surgeries and struggles she has had to face as a result. I think GM would be smart to not ignore this claim, especially with as many problems as they currently have going on with their vehicles.
It’s always important to remember that a defective or faulty product that causes injury can warrant a personal injury claim. If GM is found liable for defective seat heaters as well, they should and will be held liable for compensating Verrill for her medical costs and injury. This same idea applies to any defective product that causes death or harm.