A screengrab from crash test footage shown at trial.

Law

A Crash Test Brings a Case, and a Story, To Life

Aided in the courtroom by crash test footage, Ben and Kristi Reavis won a $242 million verdict against Toyota.

Inside the wood-everything oasis that is the Dallas-based Law Office of Frank Branson, Chip Brooker was describing what happened on impact in the automotive case that led to his firm’s $242 million victory against Toyota. I wasn’t getting it. What if I were to tell you, as Chip was telling me, that the heads of the people in the front seat knocked with those in the back seat? That the front seats folded back to allow this to occur, and that it all happened so fast the front-seat passengers had no idea who or what they’d collided with? Their children, in the back seat, leaned forward unconscious over their seat belts.

Chip pulled out his phone, and it crystallized. The crash test video he played looked like this:

Commissioned by Branson’s firm for use at trial, that video shows what’s known as dynamic seat back failure during rear impact. It imitates what happened when the Lexus driven by Ben and Kristi Reavis was struck after traffic came to a stop on Woodall Rodgers. Jurors saw that video and learned that Toyota wasn’t the only automaker that designed its cars with this particular failing. That also meant that the Reavises’ now lifelong battle was not unique. In August, the jury sent a $242 million message.

Read all about it in our January feature, online today.

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