When Matthew and Marcia Seebachan bought a used 2010 Honda Fit in 2013, they didn’t know the roof had once been replaced after hail damage.
And they certainly didn’t know a Texas body shop had replaced the roof panel using glue instead of welds, as recommended by Honda, according to a suit filed after the Seebachans suffered severe injuries in a wreck in 2013.
A Texas jury awarded the couple $42 million on Oct. 2, ordering John Eagle Collision Center of Dallas to pay $31.5 million in damages, according to Body Shop Business. The remainder will be paid by the other driver.
The couple purchased the used Fit in August 2013, according to the suit. On Dec. 21, another driver slammed into the car, seriously injuring the Seebachans. The Fit then caught fire while they were trapped in the wreckage.
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“I could just smell metal and rubber,” Matthew Seebachan told NBC 5 News. “I was screaming for my life that ‘I’m on fire. I need to get out of here.’ ”
Pulled from the fiery wreckage, the couple survived but continue to suffer the effects of the crash.
“I have flashbacks all the time and relive it every day,” Matthew Seebachan told NBC 5 News.
The suit says the Seebachans discovered only after the crash that the Fit’s roof had been replaced before they purchased it and that John Eagle Collision Center had attached the new roof panel using adhesives rather than welding, compromising the vehicle’s safety in a crash, the suit says.
“It is effectively disconnected from the structure and did not provide the necessary contribution to the overall vehicle structure,” the suit says. The structural changes caused the doors to jam in the wreck, trapping the Seebachans, and the fuel tank damage sparking the blaze.
The suit says the work did not meet Honda’s repair specifications. In a pretrial deposition, body shop director Boyce Willis said he considered structural adhesive better for that repair than welding based on his experience and the recommendations of other automakers, reports Repairer Driven News.
The Seebachans also are suing State Farm, which they claim ordered John Eagle Collision Center to replace the roof with adhesives rather than welds, reports CBS DFW. State Farm denies the allegations.