|Suit Alleges Cosco, Inc.'s Car Seat Unsafe for Children under 40 Pounds|
Isaiah Rapan filed suit April 22, 2003 against Cosco, Inc. in Riverside Superior Court (Indio Court) for negligence, alleging that the Cosco Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat is defectively designed and was the cause of injuries that have left him a CI/C2 ventilator dependent quadriplegic. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT), Dorel Industries Company, Dorel Industries, Inc. Dorel U.S.A. Inc. dba Dorel Juvenile Group, USA (the Dorel Defendants) are named as defendants. Also named as defendants are Miguel Serratos Hernandez and Maria Servantos. Isaiah's mother, Catalina Daniel, is acting as his guardian ad litem. Plaintiff is represented by Christine D. Spagnoli with the Santa Monica, CA. law firm of Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, LLP.
On the evening of September 27, 2002, Isaiah, age 2 1/2, and his brother Jesse III, age 4, were passengers in a 1986 Jeep Cherokee that was owned and being driven by their father, Jesse Rapan, Jr. Isaiah was sitting in the right rear of the car, strapped into a Cosco Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat that his parents had purchased from the Wal-Mart store in La Quinta, CA. They were traveling southbound on Monroe Street in La Quinta when their car was struck at the intersection of Monroe Street and Avenue 54 by a 1987 Chevy S10 truck driven by Defendant Hernandez.
Immediately after the accident, Mr. Rapan checked on the well being of his sons. Jesse III was upset, but not physically injured. To his father's utter shock and horror, he found Isaiah slumped over and unconscious in his Cosco Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat. Isaiah was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, CA. and then transported to Loma Linda University Children's Hospital in Loma Linda, CA.
Isaiah was in a coma for over a month. He suffered injuries to his neck and spine in the accident which caused him to become a ventilator dependent C1/C2 quadriplegic. He remained at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital for over five months, and will require specialized medical care and attention 24 hours a day for the rest of his life.
The complaint alleges that the Cosco Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat did not adequately protect Isaiah during the car accident because Cosco, Inc., the Dorel Defendants and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. failed in their duty of due care in the design of the car seat. Plaintiff alleges, in fact, that these Defendants had prior awareness that the seat was causing an alarming number of deaths and injuries among its young users, particularly for children who weigh between 30 and 40 pounds, but that the Defendants specifically advised parents, like the Rapan's that the seat was safe for children of that size. Plaintiff claims that Defendants negligently and carelessly manufactured, distributed and advertised the sale of the Cosco Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat even though they knew that it was defective and capable of causing personal injuries while being used in a reasonably foreseeable manner, and thus rendering the product unsafe and dangerous for use by the consumer at any time.
"We bought the Cosco Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat because the company led us to believe that it was safe for our son," said Catalina Daniel. "The seat wasn't safe and it failed to protect Isaiah when he needed protection the most. We've filed this lawsuit because we don't want any other family lulled into a false expectation of safety, and because we don't want any other child to pay the price that our Isaiah has had to pay."
"What the American public needs to know is that Cosco sells the exact same Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat in Canada," said Christine Spagnoli. "But in Canada, it is banned for use by children weighing under 40 pounds and carries appropriate warnings to consumers. In plain language, these seats are a danger to young children if they weigh under 40 pounds.
"For some time now," explained Spagnoli, "Cosco and Dorel have been aware that the number of deaths and injuries from the use of the Cosco Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat has been on the rise. They could have easily provided consumers with the right information, just as they do in Canada. Instead, they continue to sell an unsafe product at a low price at Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart stores across the country. And, because of their despicable behavior and because they never took the steps to do the right thing by the American public, Isaiah Rapan will never walk again.
"It's time to demand a nationwide recall of the Cosco Grand Explorer Shield Booster Car Seat," added Spagnoli. "If anything, we want this lawsuit to be viewed as an antidote to corporate greed and ambivalence. We hope that it inspires companies everywhere to raise the bar of consumer safety standards, particularly as they apply to the most innocent among us."
Editor's Note: Christine Spagnoli is a partner with Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, LLP in Santa Monica, CA.; Tel: 310.576.1200. Cosco, Inc. is headquartered in Columbus, Indiana and is a subsidiary of Dorel U.S.A., Inc. (doing business as Dorel Juvenile Group); Tel: 812.372.0141. Dorel Juvenile Group is a foreign corporation and part of Dorel Industries Inc. headquartered in Montreal, Canada; Tel: 514.934.3034. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is based in Bentonville, AR; Tel: 479 273 4000.