10 Sep Mohr v. Daimler Chrysler Corporation
SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE VERDICT OF $58,278,000
CV: No. 03-2433 $58,278,000 verdict (Shelby County, Tennessee). A jury in Shelby County, Tennessee awarded the family of Gilbert’s wife, Vickie, and his mother-in-law Maurine Heathscott.
Vickie and Maurine were killed July 5, 2002, when their 2000 Dodge Caravan failed to protect them in an accident caused by a Jeep Cherokee.
Suit was brought against Daimler Chrysler alleging that the 1996 through 2000 Dodge minivans were defective and unreasonably dangerous. One defect is that these Dodge vans have an inadequate structural design which fails to properly protect occupants in certain types of frontal crashes. Another defect is that the seatbelt buckles are prone to be inadvertently contacted and released.
The seatbelts, known as GEN-III, were the subject of an investigative report done by ABC News. The report on ABC’s Primetime demonstrated that the GEN-III buckle failed an industry standard known as “The Ball Test”. Scientists hired by ABC’s Primetime testified for plaintiffs at the trial in Tennessee.
The jury found Maurine Heathscott was belted prior to the crash but inadvertently contacted her buckle which released the belt and allowed Maurine to suffer a fatal blow to her head. Compensatory damages of $2 million were awarded to the estate of Maurine Heathscott.
The jury awarded compensatory damages of $7.5 million to the driver, Vickie Mohr. She was crushed to death when the safety cage, or occupant cage, collapsed during the offset frontal collision. Through discovery it was revealed that Chrysler rushed to put the 1996-2000 minivans on the market in approximately half the normal time it takes to design and develop a vehicle. It was further revealed that Chrysler struggled to meet the minimum federal standards for crash worthiness and occupant protection. Testimony and documents demonstrated that Chrysler took drastic measures to get their vehicles certified. Chrysler intentionally weakened the occupant compartment space which created an unreasonable risk of injury or death to occupants in an offset frontal collision.
The jury found Chrysler’s actions to be intentional or reckless. The punitive damage verdict against Chrysler was for $48,778,000.
The verdict is believed to be one of the largest ever in the history of Shelby County, Tennessee. It received media coverage from The Detroit News, Bloomberg News, The St. Louis Courier, and The Birmingham News.