A bankruptcy judge has approved a $24 million auto products liability settlement between Chrysler and the family of Richard Mraz. In 2007, Mraz’s loved ones won a $55 million jury award for the 38-year-old’s wrongful death. DaimlerChrysler, however, appealed the verdict, and the appeal was delayed after the auto manufacturer filed for bankruptcy in April. Negotiations between the automaker and the Mraz family’s auto products liability lawyers ensued, resulting in this new settlement.
Products liability plaintiffs have expressed frustration and worry that Chrysler’s bankruptcy proceedings would prevent them from recovering personal injury and wrongful death compensation. The new Chrysler Group LLC had initially agreed to accept products liability for vehicles that were manufactured after the bankruptcy but has now agreed to accept older liabilities for injuries that were sustained after it emerged from bankruptcy last June. Chrysler auto products liability lawsuits for cases that occurred prior to the Chapter 11 filing will be limited to the old company’s assets.
The auto products liability lawyers representing Mraz’s family had insisted that Chrysler post bond during the appeals process, which allowed for negotiations with the appeal bond issuer to take place.
Mraz, 38, sustained fatal head injuries on April 13, 2004 after he was run over by the 1992 Dodge Dakota he had been driving moments before the deadly car accident. His family sued DaimlerChrysler for wrongful death. They claimed that the “park-to-reverse” defect is what killed Mraz.
Also known as “false park,” the “park to reverse” defect is a auto part flaw that allows the transmission shift selector to get stuck in the position between park and reverse while the engine is running. The slightest movement can cause the shift selector to slip into reverse and the vehicle can end up moving backwards to strike a pedestrian, the driver (if he or she steps out of the vehicle), or another vehicle.
DaimlerChrysler had received more than 1,000 auto products liability complaints over this defect.