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Vt. quadriplegic awarded $43.1M after crash

Published On: Jul 02 2013 04:10:27 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 08 2013 09:36:18 AM CDT

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

A 51-year-old Vermont woman who was left a quadriplegic after the car she was driving was rear-ended almost six years ago has been awarded a $43.1 million jury verdict against the manufacturer of a car seat that allegedly collapsed during the crash.

The award against Johnson Controls Inc., of Milwaukee, is believed to be the largest civil verdict in state court in Vermont history.

Dzemila Heco, of Essex Junction, was injured Aug. 4, 2007, when the 2000 Dodge Neon she was driving was rear-ended. Heco's lawyers argued the car seat back collapsed, causing severe spinal-cord injuries. Heco was wearing a seat belt.

She will need 24-hour care for the rest of her life, her lawyer Bob Langdon told The Associated Press.

"Although many hurdles need to be overcome before the case is over, any money the family recovers will be put into a trust to care for Dzemila," lawyer Robin Curtiss told the Burlington Free Press.

A spokesman for Johnson Controls said the company is considering an appeal.

"Johnson Controls disagrees with the jury's conclusions," spokesman Fraser Engerman said in a statement. "We believe that the seat was not at fault. Its design significantly exceeded all government and industry safety standards, as well as Chrysler's own specifications. Johnson Controls stands behind the safety of all of its products."

The jury award included more than $620,000 for past medical bills, $26.5 million for future medical bills and health care expenses, more than $355,000 for past loss of income, more than $1.2 million for future loss of income, and $14.3 million for pain and suffering.

Curtiss said Heco is a refugee from Bosnia who escaped Sarajevo with two sons after her husband was killed. They arrived in Vermont in 1995.

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