Family sues Broward mechanic over airbag that exploded ‘like a grenade’ in crash that killed 22-year-old driver

A Broward mechanic installed a counterfeit airbag into a totaled Chevy Malibu that was later repaired, sold and involved in a crash that killed its driver, according to a lawsuit filed this week in the Broward Circuit Court.

Haim Levy, owner of Jumbo Automotive on North 21st Avenue in Hollywood, is among several business owners and companies named in the lawsuit filed by the family of Destiny Marie Byassee, 22, who died in a June 2023 crash.

“Because the subject Chevy Malibu’s front driver-side airbag system included counterfeit and non-compliant components, the airbag detonated like a grenade and shot metal and plastic shrapnel throughout the vehicle cabin,” the lawsuit states.

Byassee’s family is being represented by the Morgan & Morgan law firm.

According to the suit, the 2020 Malibu was originally owned by Enterprise Rent-a-Car. The car was wrecked in September 2022 and, according to the suit, should have been written off as a total loss. Instead, Enterprise contacted an auctioneer business that sold the vehicle to a Delaware-based dealer named DriveTime, which contracted with Jumbo to fix the car and prepare it for resale.

The “repaired” vehicle was sold to Byassee, of Charlotte County, last year. But she had no idea dangerous counterfeit parts were used, the lawsuit states.

Byassee died in a crash on June 11 in Punta Gorda, just north of Fort Myers in Southwest Florida. She left behind a husband and two children, all of whom are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed by her grandmother, Cathy King. Byassee’s mother is also a plaintiff.

A man claiming to be Levy answered the phone at Jumbo Automotive Friday afternoon and said he was unaware that there was a lawsuit. He did not appear to be familiar with the circumstances of Byassee’s death or the allegations that were being made. The call was disconnected and later efforts to contact the business by phone were unsuccessful.

Byassee’s family is suing the mechanic, his shop, the company that sold the car, the auctioner and Enterprise.

A spokesman for Manheim, the auctioner, told McClatchy News on May 16 that “While this was a tragic event, Manheim is unable to comment on the lawsuit at this time.”

Other companies named in the suit did not respond to media requests for comment.

Rafael Olmeda can be reached at rolmeda@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4457. 

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