Audi ordered to pay €200,000 for catastrophic airbag failure in Sesimbra collision

Audi ‘knew of the fault in the airbag system; did not inform customers’

Portugal’s Supreme Court of Justice has ordered Audi AG to pay compensation of €200,000 for airbags that failed to activate in an Audi A3 car in an accident that left a young woman seriously incapacitated for the rest of her life.

Following the road accident – a head-on collision between a passenger car and a heavy goods vehicle in 2008, between Fogueteiro and Sesimbra, in the district of Setúbal – 23-year-old Andreia Rocha suffered catastrophic injuries that left her totally dependent on the help of others. 

The plaintiffs, Andreia and her mother, Eduarda Farias, claimed the car’s airbag system “didn’t work as expected”, writes Lusa.

In its ruling of September 28, the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ) ruled that Audi “did not properly inform buyers about the functioning of the airbags that equip their cars.

“It can be concluded that these airbags are designed to inflate in situations where light vehicles collide with light vehicles, but not if the collision occurs with larger vehicles, such as the lorry that collided with the vehicle driven by the plaintiff,” explains the judgement.

Audi’s airbags “are unable to protect the driver and passengers in collisions such as the one that occurred in these cases, but this information was systematically and seriously omitted from the consumer, who often paid much more for this equipment when it was optional, deluded that it generally conferred safety in the event of a collision,” the court ruling went on.

Portugal’s Supreme Court of Justice added that this defect in the airbags “has been proven” and “has even been verified following analysis of the vehicle” in question. 

“The defect consists of the airbag not working in the event of a frontal and lateral collision of a light vehicle with a lorry with a great impact that destroyed the vehicle driven by the plaintiff and significantly changed her life.” 

The judgement also stressed that “if airbags don’t work in these collisions, the manufacturer cannot advertise that they generally work in cases of collision – as the car’s manual says. Situations for which they were designed to work should be specified“.

Lusa explains that Eduarda Farias and her daughter were claiming compensation of €1.2 million and an annual pension of €10,000, plus €406.92 per month for Andreia Rocha’s medication.

Audi AG was initially acquitted by a lower court, but the plaintiffs appealed, seeing Évora’s Court of Appeal eventually order Audi to pay €105,000 in compensation.

“Dissatisfied with this amount, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Suzana Garcia, filed a new appeal with Portugal’s Supreme Court of Justice, which almost doubled the amount established by the Évora Court, setting the amount to be paid by Audi at €200,000, plus interest”, says Lusa.

Contacted by the State news agency, Audi AG’s lawyer Miguel Pena Machete declined to comment, saying he is still analysing the sentence and considering a possible appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Every day that goes by will see Eduarda Farias ensuring every need of her daughter, who is now 38.

Source material: LUSA