Woman Sues GM Over Claims That Car’s Seat Heater Left Her With Third-Degree Burn

A 26-year-old Maine woman is suing General Motors after she claims a seat heater in one of its vehicles burned her so badly that she had to get a skin graft and was bedridden for months while she healed.

The woman is paralyzed from the waist down, so she couldn’t feel the heat in the lower half of her body on the day in 2012 when she says she was sitting in the back of her friend’s Suburban, reports the Portland Press Herald.

She says she didn’t know the heater had accidentally been turned on — it was a warm day in June the day of the incident, so why would she suspect? — or that she’d been injured until the next day when she woke with a heat blister the size of her palm on her back side. Underneath, her skin was badly scarred, she learned.

It took a skin graft and months lying in bed to heal the injury, she says, leaving her unable to do anything and severely restricting her independence.

“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I think what happened was horrifying and depressing,” she said.

In a complaint filed on her behalf in the U.S. District Court in Portland, she’s accusing GM of negligence for not testing the rear seat heaters in order to keel them from hitting “dangerously high temperatures that would burn human flesh.”

Because of the position of the skin graft, any future injuries could put her back in bed again, she says.

“The risk of having a skin graft like I did, if I were to have a pressure sore on that area where the scar is, they can’t just keep taking skin and layering it,” she explains. “This means that if something else happens and I were to get a pressure sore in that area, it would be pretty serious.”

She’s seeking an unspecified amount of money for past and future medical expenses as well as other costs and “noneconomic damages in an amount to be determined at trial,” the lawsuit says.

While General Motors has recalled more than 20 million vehicles this year alone, none of those recalls have involved the Suburban’s seat heaters, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t gotten any consumer complaints either, an agency spokesman said.

General Motors has filed a court response denying the woman’s claim, denying that the seat heater was defective or dangerous or that it caused her injury. It also denies knowledge of a defect or failure to fix a defect.

Paraplegic from Maine, burned by heated seat, blames GM [Portland Press Herald]

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  1. CzarChasm says:

    Interesting, I know seat heaters can get pretty warm, it even says in the manual that you shouldn’t leave them on high for more than X amount of time, but I wonder how hot something has to be in order to slow cook someone? Also, how are they so sure it wasn’t the effect of the sun on the seats on “a warm day in June”?