Quadriplegic sues BMW over air bag accident

OSAKA — A 66-year-old man who was paralyzed in a car accident filed a lawsuit May 27 against the company that imported the vehicle and the dealer he bought it from, claiming he was severely injured because the air bag failed to deploy.

The plaintiff, who declined to be named, is seeking 114 million yen in damages from BMW Japan Corp. in Chiba and the dealer, based in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, according to the written complaint submitted to the Osaka District Court. The man crashed his BMW 735iL into a utility pole in April 1996 when he steered in the wrong direction to enter a street from a parking lot here in Hirano Ward. The crash broke his cervical vertebrae and left him a quadriplegic. He has since been hospitalized.

When the man bought the BMW through the unnamed dealer in 1990, he asked that it be equipped with a driver air bag, which, according to the owner’s handbook, should deploy in a frontal crash of over 20 kph, said the lawyer, who claims the damage to the car indicates the impact speed was in excess of 20 kph. “Looking at TV commercials, many people may think that an air bag will protect a driver from any accident. This case will clarify whether the device is really safe,” Kawarabayashi told a news conference here May 27.