Women sue child-seat maker, sellers for boy's death

By Lawrence Smith | Sep 11, 2009

CHARLESTON - Along with her granddaughter, a Kanawha County woman believes a child-seat manufacturer, and the companies that sold them, are responsible for the death of her great-grandson.

On Sept. 2, Marilynn Einsele of Charleston filed suit against Dorel Juvenile Corporation, Kmart Holding Corporation, Sears Holdings Corporation and Emily Westerman. In her complaint filed in Kanawha Circuit Court, Einsele, as the administratrix of the estate of Dominick Michael Uslin, alleges a defective car seat Dorel manufactured, and sold to Westerman via Kmart and Sears, led to Dominick's death earlier this year following an accident on Interstate 64.

According to court records, Dominick, 4, was a passenger in the backseat of a Ford F-150 truck along with his 1-year-old sister, Isabella Uslin. Both were restrained in separate car seats.

Westerman, Dominick's and Isabella's mother, was the driver of the truck, with her husband, Paul, riding as a passenger in the front seat. Records show they were traveling westbound along Interstate 64 in Carter County, Ky., on Jan. 30.

For reasons not stated in court records, Westerman, 32, lost control of the truck, and it entered the median and rolled over. According to the Charleston Daily Mail, the accident occurred around 8:30 a.m. and was a result of icy road conditions.

Due to the rollover, Dominick was ejected from the truck. Though he was rushed to King's Daughter's Medical Center in Ashland, Dominick was pronounced dead on arrival.

In her suit, Einsele, 69, alleges that Dominick was "properly restrained" in a Cosco Highrise Model #22297 seat manufactured by Dorel, a Columbus, Ind.-based company. However, Einsele maintains the seat was defective in that it failed to provide adequate restraint and protection by preventing Dominick's ejection from the truck.

Also, Einsele alleges that Sears and Kmart share in the negligence in that they placed the seat "into the stream of commerce" knowing "it was in an unreasonably dangerous and inherently defective condition."

The suit lacks specifics if the seat was purchased at which Sears or Kmart store, and when. Since its merger with Troy, Mich.-based retailer in 2005, Sears Holdings, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., oversees the 3,900 retail outlets that operate under both the Sears and Kmart name.

As a result of the defendants' actions, Einsele alleges Dominick suffered physical and mental pain and suffering with surviving family members suffering sorrow, mental anguish and solace. Their actions also resulted in his care, treatment and hospitalization before, and funeral expenses after, his death.

Einsele is represented by Charleston attorney Marvin W. Masters. She is seeking unspecified damages, courts costs and attorney fees.

The case is before Judge Charles E. King Jr.

Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 09-C-1632

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