Centerville woman sues after air bag malfunction severs her trachea and vocal chords

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SALT LAKE CITY - A Centerville woman has joined the legal fight against the car companies and air bag manufacturers she says is responsible for her major injury.

Randi Johnston, 25, was severely injured on her way to work in North Salt Lake. As she rear-ended the car in front of her, the air bag in her 2003 Honda Civic EX failed to activate properly.

"It literally blew up in her face," said her father, Fred Johnston. "She was hit in the face with shrapnel."

That shrapnel severed Randi Johnston's trachea and vocal chords. After weeks of recovery in a nearby hospital, Johnston slowly began to recover, but quickly realized she had lost the ability to speak.

"Frustrated, scared, anxious," Randi Johnston writes on a notepad for her mother to read. "Every time I look in the mirror, I relive this nightmare. This experience has forever changed me."

Johnston's father said the accident should have never happened in the first place.

"This was completely preventable," he said. "Had the air bag been replaced in her car when she took it in for service, she would have been fine."

Her father says his daughter bought the car used last March, but, before the purchase, the previous owner took the car in for a multi-point inspection. However, he says the dealership missed something major.

"Either dealership staff has not been properly trained, or Honda is not communicating the importance of this issue to their dealerships," said Kevin Dean, a lawyer from Motley Rice LLC, the firm representing the family.

Dean says Honda first sent out emails to replace Takata air bags in a number of Honda models in June of 2014, but those notices only affected dealerships in some states. However, by December of 2014, Dean says Honda sent out a new email stating that cars in all states should now have the air bags replaced on the spot.

So, when the previous car owner brought the car in last March, Dean contends the local dealership should have spotted the model needed an air bag recall, but it didn't.

Now, Randi Johnston and her family are paying the price for the error.

"A piece of me died on the side of the freeway that day," Randi Johnston writes. "I will never forget those moments."

For a full list of cars up for air bag recalls, click here. 

26 comments

  • Dan Gray

    I would throw this out of court with prejudice if I were the judge. My sister and 5 of my nieces are all nurses with close to 130 years between them. There is NO way for a person to survive a severed trachea unless they were less then 5 minutes from a hospital. The trachea is the throat itself! the passage down to your stomach and your lungs. A severed trachea would allow blood to enter and start to fill the stomach and the lungs causing the person to drown in their own blood. It commonly is called a “cut throat” because if it is deep enough to sever the trachea then it is also deep enough to sever the arteries and that would cause death inside of 3 minutes as you would bleed out. Someone didnt think this through very well before they filed the case.

    • jafaws

      I have been a paramedic for over 10 years at a busy agency along the Wasatch front, including a flight service. There are so many factors involved there is no way you could say she could not have lived through a severed trachea. It depends on how large the laceration was, if any major blood vessels were impacted, if the airway was completely blocked etc. Often times to save a person’s life a hole is cut in the trachea and a breathing tube is inserted. Clearly if she lost the ability to speak there was significant trauma to that area. Oh, and what kinds of nurses were your sisters? CNA, LPN, RN? And where did they work? A Trauma 1 center in the ER or critical care unit, or a family practice office? Experience does matter.

      • Dan Gray

        Yes I can, Read the story it says the trachea was severed, meaning it was cut in two. Unless you would get her to the hospital very quickly and the preformed tracheotomy, you know as well as I do that she would not survive as she would not be able to breathe and drown in her own blood. And you also should know that the carotid artery as well as the internal jugular vein sit right next to the trachea, so if anything was close enough to damage or sever this, it would also have damaged or severed the other two as well as muscles and tendons in the neck. You might survive a cut throat if all it did was damage the muscles and tendons, but if it his the veins or the trachea and you were not 5 minutes or less from a hospital, you are dead meat.

      • Dan Gray

        Evie is a RN who works at a level 1 trama center in the Toledo Ohio Hospital which is on the campus of one of the most recognized medical teaching universities in the US, the Medical College of Ohio. My other niece Shannon, works as a Trauma Center Supervisor at the Northwest Ohio Regional medical center. My sister Deb used to be an emergency room Nurse Supervisor and has so many different letters behind her name that she has her own half page of the local phone book. She holds THREE national certifications as a PICC nurse. And in Canada-Mexico and the US, there are only 17,000 Nationally certified PICC nurses COMBINED, and she holds THREE of these certifications? That good enough for you or do you want to know what the other three do as well?

    • Becky

      Really???? What if this was one of your sisters? I’m not in the medical field in any way but I don’t need to be to see that she has obviously suffered severe trauma and life altering injuries due to the negligence of these companies….

      • Dan Gray

        if she was my sister, I would never have let her include this in the lawsuit. The rest, yes, but someone got greedy and is trying to make a claim that is medically impossible.

    • Brian

      Dan i would like you take a min and ask your sis and or neices how many miracles they have seen in the medical world because they happen every day. regardless of the miracle side of things it not for you or i to judge it is the courts decesion. So thanks for your negative views of the situation now gfy

    • Braxton

      Dan, I can’t possibly believe that you actually took time out of your day to criticize a professional litigator and young woman who lost her ability to speak based on the experience of your sisters? What is it that you do for work? Surely you must be a D.A. or a Surgeon to bring such vast legal and medical knowledge to the table?

      • Becky

        I may have incorrectly assumed Dan was in the medical field……..so you ask a very good question…..Dan….what is it that you do for a living?

      • Dan Gray

        First off I NEVER said I was in the medical field. I said my sister and nieces were and that between them they have well over 100 years of experience in the medical field as well as trama treatment and a stint on a medivac helo. So I can pretty much say that I trust their judgement far more then this story.

        As for me I retied from the US Military 101st Airborne 22nd Combat/160th SOAR so while I am not in the medical field, I did have medical training.

        That answer your question?

      • Dan Gray

        And I cant believe you would believe this BS claim. Look in a medical book for Gods sake. Your vocal cords are around your trachea. So are your major veins leading to your heart and your brain. If her trachea was severed, then so would her vocal cords AND her major veins in the neck. She would NOT be alive today if that happened.

        You need to educate yourself BEFORE posting.

    • bob

      Dan: Apparently you are unfamiliar with the concept of a “tracheotomy.”

      Driving a piece of shrapnel directly into the voice box from the front will not necessarily sever any major blood vessels. They are to the sides of the trachea and the larynx.

      People who don’t know what they’re talking about should refrain from talking.

      • Dan Gray

        I am quite proficient with it Bob considering I had to actually do it on a buddy that was shot in the neck. So what exactly was your medical training Bob? Or did you not have any and are just posting to see your post?

  • Becky

    Dan, I appreciate and admire you and your family’s choice of career as I can only imagine the things you see and deal with on a daily basis. People that choose to go into the medical field are amazing individuals for sure. However, it’s a good thing that you chose this field rather than the legal field because you made a snap judgment based on only a snippet of information rather than all of the facts which you will obviously not find here. I have confidence that the judge in this case will weigh ALL evidence when he/she makes their decision and not what this news report says. The bottom line is that she and many others like her have suffered great physical and emotional injuries (and even death) due to these faulty airbags and the fact that Takata and automakers have not reacted fast enough (or at all in some cases) to this issue. This did not have to happen…..she should have walked away relatively unscathed but didn’t. Is this her fault? NO! Should someone pay for her pain and suffering? YES! Is the family being greedy because they want justice? NO! Part of the goal of going public is to encourage others to get their airbags checked and replaced if needed. It’s very apparent that individuals have to be proactive and check this out for themselves because it doesn’t appear that Takata or the car manufacturers are going to go out of their way to notify people of this issue. I know this family personally and from the beginning one of their main objectives has been to get the word out to everyone THEY care about so this doesn’t happen again. So Dan……for those people that YOU care about….please just get the word out. Everyone needs to get online (there is a link in Fox 13’s story) and find out if they have these airbags. Don’t wait…..

    • Dan Gray

      Sorry I made a judgement on the MEDICAL evidence. And knowing what I do know about this and the placement of the veins and muscles and so on inside the neck, what is being claimed is medically impossible.

      • becky

        What MEDICAL evidence have YOU seen? Do you have access to her medical records? Do you know her surgeons? Do you know the medic that was on the scene of the accident? You telling all of us that because we don’t have evidence that we are just voicing our opinion but YOU on the other hand speak the truth because why???? I really don’t care that you have family in the medical field. Until YOU
        become a medical expert yourself and have seen her actual medical records, you cannot possibly justify this OPINION of yours. BTW…..have you checked to make sure you and your loved ones don’t have these faulty airbags?? I would hate for you to be in the position of having to question the validity of one of your loved ones injuries and subsequent lawsuit……..

      • Dan Gray

        Bother reading the posts BEFORE showing your ignorance? I HAVE had medical training with the Special Forces when I was in the US Military. My sister and quite a few of my nieces ARE nurses and between them they have well over 100+ years of experience and have worked as a help nurse AND a trauma center nurse AND an emergency room nurse.

        So tell us child, what medical experience do you have that is going to be able to contradict all of that PLUS what the AMA says about this kind of an injury. You know the AMA, right? The AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION! Of which they have FAR more medical training and experience then you will ever have in your lifetime if you live to be 500,000 years old!

        Its a fake claim and will be tossed out on the medical evidence alone.

        And wow, TWO responses to my one. Spam much do you?

  • bob

    The recall has been on the books for years. She definitely has a case. The dealer is REQUIRED by law to identify and perform the recall work. Not to mention her case against Honda itself, and the airbag manufacturer.

  • Spencer Reid

    @Dan Gray I know Several Nurses and this is a Survivable injury, I read an article recently that there was a young boy that had his head severed from his spinal column internally, and he survived and is now up and moving around. So having something severed is not an automatic death sentence. Please stop being so harsh and quick to judge.

    • bob

      I know a man whose aorta was totally severed in a car crash, and he lived long enough to get to the hospital and have it re-connected. He’s brain-damaged, but alive.

      If you can survive having the main artery from your heart chopped in two you can survive a hole in your voicebox.

      • Dan Gray

        Sorry, you are wrong. You have TWO major veins going up through your neck. One on the left side and one on the right. You can get one severed and survive for a short time as long as you get emergency care ASAP, but you WILL suffer some brain damage as the side that had the vein severed would have lost oxygenated blood to the brain and the brain would start to die in that area causing exactly what your friend suffered. Major brain damage.

        Now tell me. If this womans story was factual and both of the major veins were in the same area as her trach, what do you think the chances are that the trach was completely cut thus cutting off the air in her lungs and in her blood, that she was able to get through all of this with only the loss of her voice? Especially since the major veins and the trach are all basically in the exact same area and a re less then a half inch apart? As my sister the PICC nurse of over 25 years has said, “this story has more holes in it then swiss cheese, not to mention that it is medically impossible.” And since she does insert IV’s in the neck for a PICC line and has done this for over 20 years, I really do think that she knows what she is talking about

    • bob

      Saw an interview recently with a German WW-II vet who was shot through both lungs and the throat. His trachea was totally blocked with blood. He was breathing through the exit wound in his back.

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