BMW design blamed in lawsuit over heat stroke death of teenager trapped in vehicle

by Jay Pate

Fourteen year-old Graciela Martinez died of heat stroke after being trapped inside her family’s 1997 BMW 328i in a school parking lot in Madera, California. Her parents have filed a lawsuit against BMW and others alleging that the car was defectively designed. Specifically, once the car doors are locked from the outside, the doors can’t be opened from the inside. The lawsuit also alleges that Graciela couldn’t use the car’s horn to call help because the ignition key is required to operate it.

On the day Graciela died, her brother Oscar drove her and their sister Patricia to school. After parking the car, Oscar and Patricia went on to school but Graciela, who didn’t have class for another hour, stayed in the car to sleep. Oscar Martinez locked the car doors so no one would bother his sister while she slept. Oscar didn’t realize that locking the doors from the outside would trap his sister inside.

Around 3 p.m. that afternoon, Oscar Martinez returned to the car. He unlocked the doors and found his sister in the back seat. She was pronounced dead a short time later. The lawsuit states that an autopsy revealed Graciela died of heat stroke and environmental hyperthermia due to vehicle entrapment.

The lawsuit alleges BMW “ignored and suppressed data regarding deaths and serious injuries due to the double-locking mechanism contained in the BMW 328i.” The suit alleges that Graciela’s death could have been prevented if BMW had placed a safety-release lever inside the vehicle or recalled the vehicle and fixed the “double-locking mechanism.”

Defective products: protect your rights

To successfully bring a claim involving a defective product, clients need an experienced, educated attorney on their side. They also need an attorney with the financial resources to take the case to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have tried hundreds of cases to verdict and have settled hundreds more. In 2010 alone, we negotiated settlements of personal injury and wrongful death claims totaling more than $50 million.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson also has the financial resources to handle personal injury cases from start to finish. In fact, there are many instances in which we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case in order to take it to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

Our firm is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Heygood and Mr. Orr are additionally Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our partners been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*

HO&P and Auto Safety

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a car or truck, it may well be that the injuries were caused or made worse because the vehicle was not properly designed or manufactured. In order to determine whether you may have a case, you need to retain experienced, qualified legal counsel at the earliest opportunity. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have the experience and knowledge to pursue product liability claims against any of the major auto manufacturers.

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Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.