Florida Woman’s Family Sues Over Death Allegedly Caused by Counterfeit Airbag

The woman was killed in a crash when the airbag sent shrapnel into the car, striking her in the face, head and neck.

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The family of a Port Charlotte, FL, woman killed in a 2023 crash has filed a lawsuit claiming she died due to a counterfeit airbag installed in her car.

Destiny Byassee, 22, was driving a 2020 Chevy Malibu, which had been previously owned by Enterprise Rent-A-Car and sold to DriveTime through Manheim Auctions. According to the lawsuit, during the sale between Enterprise and DriveTime, Jumbo Automotive was hired to replace the car's front airbag with parts sourced from Chinese auto company Jilin, which were allegedly counterfeit, untested and noncompliant. DriveTime then sold the car to Byassee.

"Ms. Byassee was a mother of two young children and had her entire life ahead of her. What should have been a minor collision turned deadly because of the alleged negligence of multiple companies," said attorney John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan, the firm that filed the suit.

The lawsuit further alleges the seat belt pretensioner, designed to lock the seat belt during a crash, was tampered with, compromising its functionality. Byassee's vehicle was sold to her without her knowledge of these critical defects.

During the collision, the airbag reportedly deployed, shooting metal and plastic shrapnel into the car, striking Byassee in the face, head and neck, and ultimately resulting in her death. The lawsuit contends that a compliant airbag and a functional seat belt pretensioner could have saved her life.

“From our investigation, we believe this is a shockingly widespread issue -- rental car companies reselling damaged vehicles and auto repair shops installing cheap, non-compliant parts from Chinese companies and cutting corners during the repair process to resell vehicles as quickly as possible,” said Andrew Parker Felix, another attorney with Morgan & Morgan.

The suit aims to hold all parties responsible for Byassee's death accountable and bring attention to the dangers posed by noncompliant vehicle repairs. “Consumers need to be aware of these tactics used to save money, increase profits, and keep vehicles on the road when they pose a severe danger,” Felix added.

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