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Audi loses $124 million Texas verdict over seat-back failure

The parents of Jesse Rivera Jr. claimed the seat back of the 2005 Audi A4 was too weak to withstand a rear-end crash. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
The parents of Jesse Rivera Jr. claimed the seat back of the 2005 Audi A4 was too weak to withstand a rear-end crash. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(Bloomberg) -- A Texas jury ordered Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit to pay $124.5 million to an 11-year-old boy who was left brain damaged in a 2012 rear-end collision.

The parents of Jesse Rivera Jr. claimed the seat back of the 2005 Audi A4 was too weak to withstand a rear-end crash. The front seat collapsed, and the driver, the boy’s father, slid backwards hitting his head on his son’s in the back seat, said the family’s attorney, Jeff Wigington.

Audi denied any defects or fault for the boy’s injuries. Audi is “not pleased with the verdict and we will evaluate the next steps to be taken,” Mark Clothier, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail.

“It’s worth noting that neither the driver nor the injured boy were wearing seat belts, nor was the boy seated in a booster seat,” Clothier said.

Related: 12 keys to rein in bodily injury severities

The San Antonio jury Wednesday found Audi 55% responsible, assigning 25% blame to the driver who rear-ended Rivera, and 20% to the father. Audi would be liable for the whole award under Texas law, Wigington said in an interview. He said both Riveras wore seat belts.

Jesse Rivera Jr. was also left partially paralyzed and blind in his right eye, Wigington said. The accident occurred as Jesse Rivera Sr. stopped for a school bus, he said. The father wasn’t injured in the crash.

The verdict doesn’t include punitive damages.

The case is Rivera v. Cordova, 2013-CI-00118, Texas District Court, Bexar County (San Antonio).

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