The family of a deceased Madison County woman says a defective seat in the car she was riding in caused her death when she was rear-ended by a drunk driver.

Pamela Hill-Thomas and Kenneth R. Waggoner, individually and on behalf of the estate of Marlene Waggoner, filed a lawsuit March 5 in Madison County Circuit Court against Patrick L. Mays, Kia Motors America Inc. and Kia Motors Corporation. Johnson Controls Inc. and Weber Granite City Chevrolet Company are also named as defendants.

According to the complaint, Marlene Waggoner was seated in the front passenger seat of Hill-Thomas' Kia Optima in March 2010. As they were driving east on Berm Highway/Illinois Route 143 they were hit from behind by Mays, who was allegedly driving drunk in a Chevrolet Malibu.

Hill-Thomas and Marlene Waggoner were allegedly found in the car after the crash with both their seats collapsed rearward, their seat belts still buckled and both front air bags deployed. The plaintiffs say the injuries from the crash caused both Hill-Thomas and Marlene Waggoner to be hospitalized with spinal injuries. Waggoner's family says Marlene Waggoner died in May 2010 because of complications from a broken back and collapsed lung.

Hill-Thomas and Waggoner claim Kia Motors knew of the defective seats that collapsed in rear-impact collisions and the potential for those seats to cause serious injuries or death. They allege Kia Motors and JCI, the makers of the front seats, did not properly test the Optima seat's performance in rear-end crashes.

They say both companies have testified in court in connection with other lawsuits and have allegedly admitted to having intended for their vehicles' front seats to fail in rear-impact collisions.

Hill-Thomas and Waggoner accuse Kia Motors, JCI and Weber Granite City Chevrolet, who sold the Optima to Hill-Thomas in July 2009, of negligence for marketing a known defective product, of failing to warn its customers of the dangers and of wrongful death. Mays is also accused of negligence and wrongful death.

The families seek an unspecified amount of money in damages for medical expenses and court costs. Attorneys John G. Simon, Ryan A. Keane and Steven M. Dioneda, of St. Louis, are representing Hill-Thomas and Waggoner. They ask for a jury trial.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 12-L-287

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