$4.8 Million Dollar Verdict in Wheelchair Defect Case

Lyncoy Denise Wilder was a 37 year old single woman who had been stricken with muscular dystrophy as a teenager. As a result she was totally disabled and confined to a wheelchair. She purchased a powered wheelchair manufactured by Sunrise Manufacturing Co. from a dealer known as Associated Rehab, Inc. The wheelchair's seatback mechanism began to fail resulting in the need for troubleshooting maintenance by Associated Rehab, Inc. The field representative was not properly educated or trained in the engineering of the wheelchair. After multiple failed attempt to correct the problem, the technician replaced the toggle box mechanism but the left the power cord to the mechanism dangling and unattached to the side of the wheelchair. Later, Ms. Wilder was attempting move the wheelchair near her bedside commode when the unsecured wire became snagged on a piece of furniture and was ripped out of the control box. As a result, the wheelchair's seatback instantaneously went into a rearward decline which could not be stopped or reversed. Ms Wilder was then left at a 60 degree rearward angle and, due to the disabling effects of her muscular dystrophy, began to have difficulty breathing. She forced herself out of the wheelchair where she landed face down on the floor with her left leg propped up against the corner of her bed. Unfortunately, she did not have the physical ability or strength to roll over. She died on her face, in her apartment, alone, from positional asphyxiation. She was survived by her mother, who also suffered from muscular dystrophy, and her father. The insurance carrier for Associated Rehab. Inc. offered $250,000 to settle the case. The case went to trial and the jury awarded the parents the net sum of $ 4.8 million dollars. The case was subsequently settled after the verdict.