by Lisa Fogarty
We hear a lot about babies and young children being locked in cars while their parents run errands or, in some cases, do other, more selfish things with their time. But last year, a 14-year-old girl died after her older brother left her napping in the family's BMW while he went to school. His intentions were good: he thought his little sister could get a little more shut-eye before classes began. In order to keep her safe, he locked the doors from the outside so that Graciela Martinez wouldn't be disturbed.
Her sibling didn't return to the car until 3 p.m. that day -- at which point he found Graciela pale and without a pulse. The teen died of "heat stroke and environmental hyperthermia" caused by being entrapped in a vehicle. And now her family is suing BMW for the young girl's death.
BMW has acknowledged that its 1997 328i model featured a "double locking mechanism" that made it impossible for passengers to unlock car doors from the inside. But the company admits it never thought about the possibility that someone would lock a passenger in from the outside.
On the day that Graciela died, temperatures in the vehicle reached over 100 degrees. Her family's lawyer says there is evidence that the teen tried to get out of the car and even break the window, but wasn't strong enough to do so. It's heartbreaking to think she lost her life while struggling so hard to survive.
Graciela's family is also suing the school district because they weren't called when the girl didn't show up for classes that day. I realize some people may roll their eyes upon hearing about two lawsuits, but in this case, I feel this family has every right to seek justice. Granted, it's odd that her brother would lock her in the car, but it seems short-sighted for the company to fail to consider the possibility that something like this could happen. It also rectified the problem and changed its design in 1999, so the next question is: were models made prior to that year recalled?
As far as suing the school district goes? I agree with Graciela's family and would question why I wasn't notified if my young teen skipped classes for the entire day and I didn't receive a phone call. It's sad to think this tragedy could have been avoided if family members were made aware of Graciela's no-show status just a few hours earlier.
Do you think this family has the right to sue BMW and the school district?