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Lawsuit: Dealerships Turned Off Airbags Before Crash That Killed Couple

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Elaina Brown is expecting her first little boy in November. She says her dad would have been so excited.

"He was surrounded by girls and he always wanted a little boy and we are finally going to have that. And he is not here," says Brown.

Mark and Darla Burns died in a head on collision in July 2013. Brown was not in the car, but her three younger sisters were.

"The oldest was trying. She wanted to help my parents, but there was nothing she could do. My mom was already gone and my dad was going quickly."

They were headed to a family reunion.  Mom and Dad in the front seats. The 16-year-old daughter in the middle row, and the two younger girls in the far back.

"They saw my parents pass....  I would love for them to be here today, but I don't know that they could sit through it, " says Brown referring to our interview.

Attorney Todd Tracy now has the Burns' car inside his Dallas offices, in a shop where his experts move in and out to examine it.  He says the Burns should have survived this accident, and he says the Burns would have survived if the airbags had deployed.

"Something catastrophic went wrong.  It went wrong at the dealership level, " said Tracy.

The Burns family is suing Moritz Kia in Fort Worth and Discount Motors in Arlington. The Burns bought the used car from the dealerships. Their lawsuit says before selling the car to the Burns, the dealerships were "aware" of on-going problems with the "airbag system."

"It's really important that the public doesn't trust, but verifies, " said Tracy.

The lawyer says his experts claim the fuse, which controls the airbag system, had been removed.  His experts also say this cable controlling the sensors had been disconnected. And Tracy says, even though the dealership charged the previous owners for replacing the sensors in this seat before selling the car, it did not. He showed us the invoice where the dealership charge appears.

Pointing to the seat where Mrs. Burns was sitting, Tracy said, "The seat was never changed."

Moritz Kia and Discount Motors sent the I-Team the following statement.

          "As trial counsel, we consider it inappropriate to comment upon matters that are the subject of pending court proceedings. Normally we abstain from any such comment. However, in the case, numerous statement have already been made to the press, apparently by counsel for the Plaintiffs, who has a direct and substantial financial interest in the outcome of this case. These statements are inaccurate and we believe designed to be purposefully prejudicial to our clients.

           We have the deepest sympathy for the victims of this tragic accident and their survivors. However, we intend to demonstrate at trial that Moritz KIA of Fort Worth nor Discount Motors were at fault in causing either the accident or the resulting injuries and deaths. The vehicle which was involved in the accident was from every indication known to us as safe. There is no evidence that would substantiate a claim that the car was somehow tampered with to mask an airbag defect. There is also no evidence that anyone involved with Moritz KIA of Fort Worth or Discount Motors removed any fuse from the automobile. The injuries and deaths were caused by a driver who crossed the yellow line on the highway and collided head-on into the Decedents vehicle at a high rate of speed."

The courts will decide why the airbags in the vehicle did not activate, and we will follow the case.

The I-Team has learned there are many other reasons you may want to check your airbags now:

  • Your vehicle could have been in a previous accident and the airbags were never replaced.
  • A previous owner may have disconnected them for a child or disabled person.
  • or, Off-the-market airbags could have been fraudulently installed.

Here's what you need to know:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a site where you can run the vin number to see if the airbags have been legally disabled and reported. Click here to link to the website.
  • A seller should always disclose any prior issues to you.
  • If you have any questions before you buy, take your vehicle to an independent mechanic.

"It just shouldn't have happened and I would like for other families not to have to go through this, "says Brown.

 (©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)



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