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

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 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.

Chevrolet claims the seat responded to the crash as it was supposed to.

“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.”

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.

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



New shipyard president seeks to make yard more efficient

BATH, Maine (AP) – The retired Navy rear admiral who now heads Bath Iron Works says one of his goals is to make the shipyard more efficient.

John F. “Dugan” Shipway said it takes BIW 8 to 10 percent longer than its archrival, Northrop Grumman Ingalls in Mississippi, to build an Aegis destroyer. He said decreasing the number of labor hours needed would help protect long-term job security at Bath.

“It is a fact that our man-hours are greater than Ingalls’ today. It’s within our control to narrow that gap, close it and maybe put them on the other side,” Shipway told the Portland Press Herald.

Shipway said speeding up production becomes more important as the Navy orders fewer ships per year. The Navy has ordered three destroyers a year for the past decade, but orders are slated to go down for the next destroyer model, the DDX.

If the Navy’s ordering fewer boats, said Shipway, BIW needs to be as competitive as possible in terms of how long it takes to produce the destroyers.

AP-ES-06-01-03 1315EDT



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