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Rulings: Louisiana Court Upholds Crysler Defect Verdict

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana has upheld the judgement of a St. Bernard Parish district court jury which found Chrysler liable for the death of a baby, Collin Guillot, as well as injuries to his family.

On May 21, 1999, Mr. and Mrs. Guillot and their daughter got into the family vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, to drive to the hospital for the delivery of the couple’s second child. The Guillots were in the front seat when Mrs. Guillot got out to help her young daughter in the back seat. Moments later, Mr. Guillot also got out of the car to get his mobile phone, which was in the back of the jeep.

Several seconds later, the Jeep moved in powered reverse. Ms. Guillot was pinned between the open rear door of the SUV and a brick carport column. The force of the impact caused massive internal bleeding and ruptured her womb. Her unborn child, Collin, was delivered by emergency cesarean section but suffered brain damage for lack of blood and oxygen caused by the crushing injury. He died 17 days later in his parents’ arms after being taken from life support.

Mr. Guillot initially believed that he left the Jeep Grand Cherokee in reverse prior to exiting it because there appeared to be no alternative explanation. He was investigated by the local sheriff’s office and believed himself responsible for the loss of his son.  Chrysler was aware of the incident and sent an investigator to gather information. Chrysler never informed the Guillots or law enforcement authorities that the vehicle had a defect in its transmission that could have caused the tragic accident.

A Los Angeles Times reporter contacted the Guillots more than two years later and informed them of similar incidents involving Jeeps.

On April 8, 2008, a Louisiana state court jury in St. Bernard Parish found DaimlerChrysler Corporation liable for the death of the Guillot’s child, Collin Guillot, and injuries to Juli, August, and their then 3 year old daughter Madison. The jury returned a unanimous verdict of $5,080,000 in compensatory damages. With pre-judgment interest, the verdict is over $7,500,000.

The jury found that a defect in the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s transmission, called a park-to-reverse defect, played a substantial factor in Collin Guillot’s death and the severe injuries suffered by Mr. and Mrs. Guillot and their daughter.

The expert witness at the court, Mr Rosenbluth, has, in other cases, used video showing the driver and sole occupant of a 1998 Jeep Cherokee exiting the vehicle and approaching an ATM machine. Bank surveillance cameras then show the Jeep moving of its own accord approximately eighteen seconds later.

On 24th September 2010, this judgement was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, who rejected further arguments from Crysler.

Scott P. Nealey of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP said:

“Had Chrysler dealt with the defect many years ago when customers first complained about park-to-reverse problems, Collin would be alive today. That Chrysler had over 200 complaints of park-to-reverse incidents on Grand Cherokees before this tragic accident, and did nothing to fix the vehicles is inexcusable.”

“There have been hundreds of accidents, including many where people died or suffered debilitating physical injuries when their vehicle suddenly moved from park into reverse. Auto manufacturers must accept legal responsibility for these injuries and recall the vehicles, instead of seeking to blame the driver for the accident and denying their vehicle is defective.”

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Law Desk
Editors and staffers from the Law Desk at The Global Herald.

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