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Jaguar Vehicle Tore Off Man's Thumb, Suit Says

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By Jeannie O'Sullivan

Law360 (June 7, 2019, 8:34 PM EDT) -- Jaguar Land Rover North America LLC was slammed with a lawsuit Friday claiming the automatic door of one of its vehicles severed a Florida man's thumb in a grisly incident he blames on faulty technology that came with no safety warnings.

Theodore J. Levy watched “in horror” as the driver’s side door of his 2016 Jaguar XJRL caused bloodshed during the August 2017 ordeal, which has left him pain-ridden, depressed and unable to properly care for his disabled wife, according to the complaint filed in New Jersey federal court.

The Levys are seeking unspecified damages for claims that include product liability, negligence, warranty breaches and fraudulent concealment. Jaguar has caused “untold damage” to the Levys’ golden years, according to their attorney, Avi Cohen of the A. Cohen Law Firm PC.

“Now is the moment when Jaguar should shelve it’s ‘art of performance’ slogan and focus on the ‘art of safety.’ My client’s thumb would have had a better chance of surviving had it been bitten by a real jaguar, instead of his Jaguar car door,” Cohen said in a statement to Law360.

In addition to Mahwah, New Jersey-based Jaguar Land Rover North America, the defendants include Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. and Jaguar’s parent, Tata Motors Ltd.

Levy purchased the car at a Florida dealership in April 2017, according to his complaint.

The car has soft-close automatic doors, or SCAD, technology, which is designed to prevent motorists and passengers from forcefully closing the doors, the complaint said. The technology runs on an electric motor that pulls the door closed once the latch catches the handle, according to the complaint.

The technology carries “risk and peril of serious injury” because it doesn’t include a sensor that would detect when an object, like a body part, comes in the path of the door’s closure, according to the complaint.

Jaguar has known for years the mechanism was “inherently dangerous,” but never warned Levy about the risks or provide any safety precautions.

One day in August 2017, Levy was driving the car with his wife, Helaine, in the passenger seat and a friend in the back, according to the complaint. He parked at a restaurant in Juno Beach, opened the door and, as he exited the car, the SCAD technology “triggered” the door to close on his right thumb, the complaint said.

“In tremendous pain,” Levy tried pulling the door with force but it wouldn’t open, the complaint said. Instead, it “pulverized the bone structure, and crushed the flesh, nerves, blood vessels, tendons and musculature” of the distal portion of his right thumb, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiff observed in horror as the door severed the upper portion of his formerly fully functional right thumb. Blood from his ruptured vessels immediately filled the previously sturdy area that had encompassed the structure of the thumb,” the complaint said.

Levy was rushed to a hospital in Jupiter, Florida, where he underwent emergency surgery, according to the complaint. Sadly, the thumb couldn’t be saved, the complaint said.

In addition to suffering continuing pain and difficulty with mundane tasks, Levy cannot properly care for his wheelchair-bound wife, the complaint said. Levy began serving as her primary caretaker following a stroke that left her paralyzed on one side of her body, and now he’ll likely have to hire an assistant to care for her, according to the complaint.

Levy claimed the ordeal has left him depressed.

“Plaintiffs injuries and suffering were solely caused — and could have been prevented — by the defendants’ negligence and apathy had they included reasonably available safety precautions and unambiguous warnings in the design and manufacturing of the SCAD technology,” the complaint said.

A representative for Jaguar, Stuart Schorr, said he could not comment because the company has not been served with the lawsuit yet.

The Levys are represented by Avi Cohen and Jared Weiden of A. Cohen Law Firm.

Counsel information for the defendants was unavailable.

The case is Theodore J. Levy et al. v. Jaguar Land Rover North America LLC et al., case no. 2:19-cv-13497, in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

--Editing by John Campbell.

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