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Jury Awards Couple $7.5 Million from Toyota

November 7, 1990

DETROIT (AP) _ A jury ordered Toyota Motor Corp. to pay a couple $7.5 million in damages after the seat belt in their 4Runner vehicle failed during a crash and the husband was severely injured.

Company officials were shocked by the size of the award and plan to appeal, said Toyota spokeswoman Mindy Geller.

Since the Feb. 9, 1988, accident, Cliff Sadlier has had to rely primarily on a wheelchair to get around, but he can walk short distances with crutches and braces.

Sadlier, of suburban Bloomfield Hills, said the vehicle’s selt belt failed when he was driving alone and crashed into a tree. When the belt failed, his head went through the windshield and his body hit the dashboard.

He and his wife, Joanne, sued the company, saying the belt lacked a device to take up slack in the belt. Toyota’s lawyers said the belt met federal specifications.

″We felt the seat belt was defective by design,″ said Robert Gura, foreman of the U.S. District jury that granted the award Monday. ″It doesn’t provide the protection the federal law says it should.″

Gura also is a supervisor at Chrysler Corp.’s stamping plant in Warren, Mich.