Verrill has been a paraplegic since the age of 15, when spinal surgery to correct her scoliosis went wrong. She has touch sensation in her lower extremities, but she's unable to sense temperature, a major problem after a ride in a friend's 2008 Chevrolet Suburban from New York City to the Connecticut coast. Unbeknownst to her, the heated seats were on, and were generating temperatures so extreme she was unaware of the third-degree burns she was suffering. Verrill didn't discover the burns until the following day.
Following a skin graft to repair the damage, Verrill spent three months on her stomach, under the care of her parents at the family's home.
"I couldn't do anything for myself," Verrill told the Portland Press Herald. "I was literally in bed on my stomach. It's not like I was just homebound."
Since then, a suit was filed against General Motors on Verrill's behalf, alleging that the embattled automaker failed to adequately test seat heaters, thereby allowing them to reach "dangerously high temperatures that would burn human flesh," the New York Daily News reports.
According to the Press Herald, GM has denied the claims that the Suburban's seat heater caused Verrill's injury, while also claiming it was unaware of any defect in the heaters. US Magistrate Judge John Rich III has ordered both sides to be ready for trial by May 4, 2015.