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  • Richard Kastigar lost his thumb to his Mercedes-Benz’s soft-close doors
  • Kastigar seeks half a million dollars in damges for the injury
  • He also stipulates that Mercedes should add sensors to prevent future injuries

You’ve done it before, and so have I. Maybe you were in a rush, or just weren’t paying attention. Getting your finger stuck in a car door is excruciatingly painful. Well, one man lost a finger as a result. Now, he’s suing Mercedes-Benz, alleging that the brand’s soft-close doors found on many of its luxury car and SUV models are dangerous.

The Mercedes-Benz logo on a GLE 450
The suit alleges the plaintiff is no longer able to work | Jakub Porzycki via Getty Images

A man lost his thumb to his Mercedes-Benz GLE 450

Richard J. Kastigar, Jr. is suing Mercedes-Benz. In October of 2021, Richard lost his thumb to the door of his Mercedes-Benz GLE 450. And the suit covers more than just that one Mercedes SUV. The brand’s soft-close door technology is present in everything from the S Class luxury sedan to their newest EVs, like the EQS. The feature is practically a staple in the luxury car market. Per Kastigar, the door to his Mercedes-Benz closed on him while his back was turned. Kastigar indicates his back was turned while his right thumb was in the door frame.

Then, Kastigar was forced to watch the door close on his then-attached thumb. Moments later, his thumb was crushed completely, severing the upper half of it. Doctors attempted to re-attach the appendage, but couldn’t. For those with a weak stomach, skip ahead. Per Car Complaints, doctors attempted “to remove the protruding distal phalanx bone and surrounding soft tissue and nerves.” In effect, it was a sort of compound fracture caused by the door, too serious an injury for anything to be done.

BMW also faced lawsuits over similar soft-close door incidents

BMW's headquarters in Munich on a clear day
BMW has also been sued under similar circumstances | Christof Stache via Getty Images

“A once proud and independent man who protects the public from harm now relies on his wife to assist him with going to the bathroom, showering, brushing his teeth, getting dressed and buttoning his shirt. He has great difficulties holding a pen, feeding himself, tying his own shoes, using tools and assisting around the house with chores such as laundry and washing dishes.”

Kastigar et al v. Mercedes-Benz USA LLC et al

Kastigar, Chief Deputy of the Pima County Sheriff’s Dept. in Arizona, says he will lose at least $500,000 in wages due to the loss of his most dexterous digit. As for the mechanics of the incident, the Mercedes-Benz in question (and presumably other models as well) has a secondary latch position that is pulled in by an electric motor.

This motion is what resulted in the loss of Kastigar’s thumb. The filings, which you can view on Justia, say the soft-close door tech is “nothing short of a modern-day guillotine.” BMW was also sued for a similar incident in 2017, but the judge dismissed that case on the grounds that that particular injury was in line with the millions of other people who have slammed their fingers in car doors.

Should soft-close doors have sensors?

A white Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 SUV shot from the front 3/4 at the Geneva Motor Show
The GLE isn’t the only Merc with soft-close doors | Eric Piermont via Getty Images

Kastigar also demands that Mercedes-Benz install sensors into its doors to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future. A victory in this case does have the potential for a policy like that to take effect. However, given the president set by the BMW case, it’s unlikely that this suit will have such sweeping effects. As of December 6th, 2021, no further motions have been filed, and the case has not been tried.