The witness list includes national experts in auto design and the science of how bodies move inside a car during an accident.

PORTLAND (AP) – A lawsuit that challenges the safety of the Chevrolet Lumina’s seats and restraint systems goes to trial next week.

Maria Allen of Naples charges that her seat back collapsed when her minivan skidded off an icy road on March 2, 1999. As a result, Allen’s family says, she slipped under her seat belt and struck her head with great force. The mother of two is now permanently disabled with a brain injury, according to court records.

“The Lumina was not crash worthy in that it did not provide proper or adequate protection to occupants during a normal and foreseeable accident event,” according to the complaint. “(GM) was negligent in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of the Lumina. As a result of the negligence . . . Maria Allen was injured.”

The trial, which pits Allen’s family against the world’s largest automaker, will begin Tuesday in Cumberland County Superior Court and is expected to take three weeks. The family seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The witness list includes national experts in auto design, crash reconstruction and the science of how bodies move inside a car during an accident.

GM and Allen have disputes over the circumstances of the crash and the extent of her injuries. But the core of the case will be whether the company was negligent in selling the type of seat that Allen was using the day she crashed.

Allen was driving her Lumina van from her home in Naples to her job at the Tambrands factory in Auburn.

As she traveled east on Route 122 in Poland she rounded a curve on a small hill and came upon some stopped vehicles involved in an accident.

Her car hit the same patch of ice that caused the first accident and Allen’s van spun off the road and hit a rock and trees.

According to documents filed by her lawyers, Allen’s seat back collapsed at the moment of impact and her body was forced toward the right rear corner of the van, and she slid headfirst out of her seat and under her seat belt.

Chevrolet claims the seat responded to the crash as it was supposed to. In court documents, lawyers for General Motors said they will argue that the seat back did not fail, but was “deformed” by the impact of the crash and lessened the impact to Allen.

Her injury was caused not by the rear impact, the company claims, but by a side impact with a rock that made the sliding side door buckle into the passenger compartment.

The company claims that she did not come “hurtling out of the driver’s seat” but collided with the intruding door.

Along with GM, the Allens’ sued Walker Chevrolet and Black Point Auto Sales, the companies that sold the 1994 Lumina Van.


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