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Monday, August 19, 2019

Judge Lopinot schedules status conference in suit alleging seat bolts gave out during collision

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | May 15, 2016

A status conference has been set in a wrongful death suit alleging defective seat bolts gave out during rear-end collision after the defendants denied liability in the case.

Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot scheduled a status conference for May 31 at 9 a.m.


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.

Magna International answered the first amended complaint on Feb. 24 through attorneys W. Jason Rankin and Jason Johnson of HeplerBroom in Edwardsville, denying liability.

The defendant filed 20 affirmative defenses. It claims Schmeder’s alleged injuries or damages were caused by third parties or by the plaintiff’s “own culpable conduct, fault, and/or product misuse.”

The defendant also claims the products at issue were supplied to or used by an entity who was a “knowledgeable and sophisticated” user of the products and required no warnings. Further, the plaintiff should have known of the potential risks and hazards associated with the product.

Magna International adds that it acted in compliance with any and all applicable standards and its products were not defective or unreasonably dangerous.

Johnson Controls answered the complaint on Feb. 29 through attorneys Tracy Ferak and Jeffrey Whitt of Reed Smith in Chicago. It denies liability and claims Schmeder’s alleged injuries were caused by the plaintiff’s own negligence.

In its six affirmative defenses, the defendant also argues that any alleged injuries were caused by misuse of the products at issue or substantial change to the products. It alleges the products “conformed in all respects to the state of the art in the industry at the time of manufacture.”

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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