Big Isle paraplegic wins
$16 million in damages
A jury rules against the manufacturer of a faulty seat belt
HILO » A 26-year-old man who was left a paraplegic has won a nearly $17 million judgment against a Japanese company because his seat belt failed during a Big Island accident in 2000.
The $16.96 million judgment for Dason Udac of Naalehu and his father is one of the largest won on the Big island.
Udac was driving the 1987 Nissan Pathfinder when it overturned on the Hawaii Belt Highway between Pahala and Naalehu.
Udac and his father, Alfredo, 84, riding with him but uninjured, sued Takata Corp., maker of the seat belts installed in the vehicle, alleging that the seat belts were negligently designed.
In December a jury found that Udac was 35 percent responsible for the accident that caused his injuries, but Takata was 65 percent responsible. The percentages reduced the amount of money received by Udac for special damages (medical bills) and general damages (pain and suffering) but did not reduce punitive damages.
The final amounts awarded to Udac are $2.405 million in special damages, $1.625 million in general damages and $12.5 million in punitive damages, for a total of $16.53 million.
Alfredo Udac was also awarded $422,500 for emotional distress and loss of care from his son.
Circuit Judge Glen Hara officially entered the judgment in the case yesterday.
Takata was represented by Honolulu attorney Kenneth Fukunaga, who could not be reached for comment.
Last month, a Hilo jury awarded nearly $5.6 million to the survivors of Arturo Iturralde, into whose back surgeon Robert Ricketson inserted a a sawed-off piece of screwdriver that subsequently broke.
In 1995 a Kona jury awarded two flower growers, Raymond Kawamata and Stanley Tomono, $23.8 million for damage to their farms from the DuPont product Benlate.