Christensen v. Alaska Sales – Early Head Injury Treatment Critical

Several years ago, a woman in rural Alaska struck two moose on a dark highway. She found herself disoriented, but she hadn’t broken any bones. She had the capacity to call police and her husband. They noted a large mark in the middle of her forehead, but she shrugged it off, declining emergency treatment.
But in the days that followed, she began to experience dizzy spells and headaches. Her balance increasingly worsened, and she kept falling. Her short-term memory began to suffer. Her speech became disjointed. Her symptoms continued to worsen. After a week, she sought help from a doctor. She was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. The injury gave rise to a claim of seat belt defect in Christensen v. Alaska Sales & Service, Inc..

Latent head injuries are common, as the effects are not always immediately apparent. Early intervention can be key in reducing the damage. This is why it’s critical for anyone who has suffered a head injury – whether in a car accident or sports injury or fall.

Our Anderson injury lawyers also know that when clients get an exam right away, they have a better chance of proving causation when seeking compensation. That way, defendants can’t argue the injury occurred after the accident but before treatment.

The Christensen case, before the Alaska Supreme Court, has been ongoing since 2008. Although a collision with moose isn’t usually a compensable injury, the couple is suing the car dealership for product liability, alleging the seat belt in the four-year-old vehicle failed to properly restrain her in the crash.

According to court records, shortly after the crash, husband took the vehicle to a repair shop. The mechanic revealed the seat belt likely failed to work properly in the crash. Husband recalled that the seat belts in the vehicle didn’t behave like others to which he was accustomed in that they failed to lock when suddenly pulled forward. Husband asked mechanic to repair the driver’s side seat belt, and mechanic responded by a finding that both the driver’s and passenger’s side seat belts weren’t functioning as they should. They were replaced, though the mechanic did not keep the old seat belts.

Plaintiffs later filed suit against the dealership, alleging product liability for the defective seat belts.

The superior court granted summary judgment to defendants on the grounds plaintiffs had failed to present enough evidence to support their claim. Namely, they could not produce the allegedly defective seat belts to prove their position. The superior court denied a motion for reconsideration, but the Alaska Supreme Court reversed on appeal.

The high court found there was in fact evidence presented on which a reasonable jury could have found the seat belt was defective. To prevail on the claim, plaintiffs would have to prove at trial the seat belt was defective and the defect caused the crash. The court found evidence exists that reasonably suggests a defect in the seat belt. The couple produce evidence the seat belt had not been altered in any way after purchase. There were husband’s statements about the belt’s failure to properly retract. There was testimony from the mechanic and reports relating to the repairs. The physical evidence showed wife had suffered injury to her head, suggesting the seat belt did not hold her back the way it was supposed to.

Even though the actual seat belts couldn’t be produced, the court found the evidence sufficient to support a jury reasonably finding in favor of plaintiffs. Thus, the case was remanded for trial.

Contact our South Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Christensen v. Alaska Sales & Service, Inc., Oct. 10, 2014, Alaska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Hunting Accident in North Carolina Results in Death, Oct. 4, 2014, Anderson Injury Lawyer Blog

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