For parents, it can be exciting to finally be able to turn their infant around to a forward-facing car seat once they reach the minimum weight limit, and even more exciting when their child graduates to a booster seat. But a recent investigation raises serious concerns over the Evenflo Big Kid booster seat.
ProPublica describes itself as a “nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.” In one of ProPublica’s recent investigations, it obtained video footage of an Evenflo booster seat with a child-sized dummy during a simulated crash. Instead of the dummy being protected by the seat, the video shows the dummy being violently tossed about. This brings us to the tragic story of 5-year-old Jillian Brown, of Long Island.
In 2016, Jillian was sitting in an Evenflo Big Kid booster seat while her mother, Lindsay Brown, was driving. Sadly, Lindsay’s car was T-boned in a side-impact crash not far from the family’s home. Jillian and her sister, Samantha, were both riding in the back of the car at the time of the crash, CBS reported.The first thing Jillian did after the crash was look to the backseat to check on her daughters.
“Jillian was the farthest from the impact strapped into the booster seat. While Samantha, in a different car seat, and Lindsay recovered from their injuries, Jillian never will. She was left paralyzed from the neck down. A ventilator now keeps her alive,” reported CBS. Not only has the family’s lives changed since that day, every day is spent caring for Jillian.
Brown Family Sues Evenflo
The Brown family is now suing Evenflo. The car seat manufacturer claims the booster performed as it was designed to, and blamed Jillian’s injuries on driver error or the severity of the crash, or both.
At the time of the crash, Jillian weighed 37 pounds; therefore, with a 30-pound minimum weight limit for the booster, she met the seat’s minimum weight limit. And with the 30-pound minimum, the Big Kid seat exceeded the federal standards. This brings us back to the worrisome footage of the crash test dummy in Evenflo’s Big Kid booster seat.
Even though the Big Kid seat was side-impact crash tested, the test itself does not have a federal safety standard. The video footage obtained by ProPublica showed crash test dummies being violently tossed about, but the seats still “passing” despite the obvious, if not deadly, risks to children who are placed in them.
Dr. Ben Hoffman, one of the lead authors for car seat recommendations at the American Academy of Pediatrics watched the side crash videos, and this was his response: “I think the word that I used to describe them initially was horrific. Human beings just aren’t built to survive that amount of movement,” he said.
According to CBS, in 2000 Congress directed federal regulators to create a standard for side-impact crash tests for car seats; it’s been 20 years and it still hasn’t gone into effect.