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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2006

Big Island man awarded $16.5 million

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i A Big Island judge has entered a $16.5 million judgment against a Japanese seat-belt manufacturer in connection with a car crash that left a 26-year-old Na'alehu man paralyzed from the waist down.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Dason Udac and his father, Alfredo Udac, alleged that the seatbelt Dason Udac was wearing in an Oct. 8, 2000, car crash failed to operate properly, causing Udac to be thrown from the vehicle.

Dason Udac was driving a 1987 Nissan Pathfinder south on Hawai'i Belt Road when the vehicle ran off the right side of the road, struck an embankment and rolled, according to the lawsuit.

Father and son sued Takata Corp., the company that manufactured the seat belt used in the Pathfinder. The suit alleged the company manufactured or sold a defective product, failed to discover defects, or failed to properly test for them.

On Dec. 22 a Hilo jury found Takata was negligent in the design of the belt and that the belt was defective. The jury also found Udac was negligent in the crash, assigning 35 percent of the blame to him, and 65 percent to Takata.

The jury awarded Dason Udac more than $3.7 million in special damages, $2.5 million in general damages and $12.5 million in punitive damages.

Hilo Judge Glenn Hara this week entered an order that adjusts those amounts, providing for $2.4 million in special damages, $1.625 million in general damages, and $12.5 million in punitive damages.

The judgment provides another $422,500 for Alfredo Udac.

Lois Yamaguchi and Kenneth Fukunaga, lawyers for Takata Corp., were unavailable for comment on the judgment, and it is unclear if the company intends to appeal.

Dwayne Lerma, who represented Alfredo Udac in the case, said the judgment "brings the case one step closer toward justice for the plaintiffs."

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.