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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Automotive manufacturer denies liability in wrongful death suit alleging seat bolts gave out during collision

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Dec 1, 2015


An automotive manufacturer and a driver are countersuing each other in a wrongful death suit alleging defective seat bolts gave out during a rear-end collision.

Larry Schmeder, as special administrator of the estate of Cheryl Schmeder, filed the original lawsuit on Aug. 3 against FCA US LLC and Gary Mathenia.

According to the complaint, the defendant was an authorized manufacturer and seller of motor vehicles including a 1997 Chrysler Town & Country minivan purchased by the plaintiff on or about March 28, 1997, in St. Clair County.

The suit states that the driver’s seat lean back mechanism lacked adequate bolts because the seat back collapsed when the van was rear-ended on April 20 by Mathenia’s 2001 Chevrolet Silverado, allegedly resulting in Cheryl Schmeder’s death.

The plaintiff accuses both defendants of negligence and wrongful death. Mathenia is sued for allegedly failing to reduce speed and maintain a proper lookout to avoid collision.

Mathenia answered the complaint on Sept. 18 through attorneys Stephen Mudge and Joshua Severit of Reed, Armstrong, Mudge & Morrissey in Edwardsville, denying all liability.

The defendant also filed a counterclaim against FCA. He argues that the counter-defendant had a duty to design and manufacture a reasonably safe vehicle.

Mathenia also argues that the plaintiff’s minivan was in an “unreasonably defective and unreasonably dangerous condition.” The counterclaim states that the bolt securing the lean-back mechanism was defectively designed or manufactured and broke during use, which caused it to collapse.

FCA answered the complaint on Sept. 22 through attorneys Brian Bell and Anthony Monaco of Swanson, Martin & Bell in Chicago.

FCA argues that the plaintiff failed to act in an ordinary and reasonable manner for her own safety by failing to operate her vehicle so as to avoid a collision, failing to properly wear the available restraint and sitting and driving the vehicle while out of position.

The defendant also argues that the product in question was designed and manufactured according to what was considered “state of the art” at that time and that the product was modified or altered by third parties.

FCA responded by filing a counterclaim against Mathenia, arguing that he negligently failed to reduce speed to avoid a collision, failed to keep a proper lookout and violated the provisions in the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code.

FCA answered Mathenia’s counterclaim on Oct. 7, arguing that Mathenia’s negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot ordered for the vehicles to be inspected and scheduled a status conference for Jan. 19 at 9 a.m.

Schmeder seeks a judgment in his favor for more than $75,000 plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

The plaintiff is represented by Thomas Q. Keefe Jr. of Keefe & Keefe in Belleville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 15-L-438

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Organizations in this Story

Keefe & Keefe, P.C. Reed, Armstrong Mudge & Morrissey Swanson Martin & Bell LLP

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