Chrysler False Park Defect Kills Two People

  • Home
  • /
  • Chrysler False Park Defect Kills Two People

In 2011 Rose Coats and her husband Roy were killed when a false park defect in their 2008 Dodge Caravan caused the car to roll backwards. Now a federal appeals court has reinstated the lawsuit against Chrysler brought by the couple’s remaining family.

Wrongful Death of Rose and Roy Coats

In 2011 Rose, 75, and Roy, 83, pulled their 2008 Dodge Caravan into the garage of their home in the Riverside County town of Menifee, California. Rose, who had been driving, stepped out of the car with the motor still running. She obviously must have believed the car was in park because she moved behind it. She was crushed against the garage door where she suffocated to death. Roy was knocked down and suffered a fatal heart attack.

False Park Defect

The lawsuit brought by the couple’s children claims the accident was caused by a “false park” defect. A “false park,” also known as a “park to reverse” defect is when the gearshift in an automatic transmission stops in-between the reverse and park settings, without providing an indication to the driver, who believes they have placed the motionless vehicle in park. Because the gearshift is in an unstable position between gears any slight movement can cause the vehicle to self-shift into reverse. If the vehicle is still running, the vehicle will reverse with power and can run over any driver or bystander that accidentally gets in its way. According to the lawsuit, after Rose Coats exited the car, believing it to be in it unexpectedly shifted into reverse and struck both of them.

Family Testimony

According to the family’s lawyers, between 2000 and 2006, Chrysler conducted voluntary recalls of Ram and Dodge Dakota pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees because of similar defective mechanisms. An auto defects researcher of other “false park” claims that have been brought against Chrysler offered testimony for the family’s side, citing a 1990-91 investigation conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that found several hundred similar incidents that resulted in 109 injuries and seven deaths.

Previous Ruling Overturned

The most recent ruling overturned a January 2013 federal judge’s decision that dismissed the family’s suit against Chrysler without a trial. During that trial, U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner ruled the family’s claim was “speculative” that a transmission defect caused the deaths and that it was equally plausible that Rose Coats had accidentally left the car in reverse as she tried to attend to her husband, who may have already been having the heart attack.

But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco thinks a jury should be the ones to decide the cause of the accident. A previous federal investigation and assessments by the family’s expert witnesses, showed evidence that, according to Judge Harry Pregerson, would “allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the ‘false park’ defect was the legal cause of the accident and their deaths.” The ruling was a 3-0 ruling.

Warning to Consumers

Robert Nelson, one of the lawyers representing the family believes this case should send a warning not only to consumers, but also to federal regulators. He’s taken other similar cases to trial.

“A number of cars still out there have such defects,” said Nelson.

Chrysler Bankrupt

The manufacturer of the car that killed the Coats, Chrysler LLC,  filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The company is now owned by the U.S. subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Michael Palese, a spokesman for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, disputed the latest ruling, saying that while the company sympathizes with the victims and their families, still considers the suit unfounded. Similar claims have been made against other automakers, he said, and “the common theme in each one of these tragic stories is an operator who is in a hurry or is distracted and makes the critical mistake of exiting the vehicle while it is in gear with the keys in the ignition.” According to him and the company, the 2008 Dodge Caravan “has an excellent safety record.”

Hundreds of people have suffered debilitating injuries or death when their vehicles unexpectedly moved into reverse. Still, the manufacturers of these automobiles have refused to accept legal responsibility for these injuries. Instead, they typically blame the driver for the accident while denying their vehicle has been manufactured with a defect.

What to Do

Just as with any other personal injury accident, such as a car or bus accident, a construction accident, or an elevator accident, you will want to work with a personal injury attorney. You’ll want to act quickly if you wish to file a lawsuit, as many accidents have limits regarding when a suit can be brought. Because of this you’ll want to work with a lawyer immediately so they will be able to bring your case to justice. Here are some things you’ll want to prepare for your first meeting with your lawyer:

  • Record all the particulars of the accident: when it occurred, where it took place, what time. You’ll want to make sure you write down anything and everything that you remembered about the events leading up to, during, and after the accident.
  • Were there any witnesses? Did anyone see the accident happen? Record their information, including name and contact information.
  • If you are injured, seek immediate medical attention. Try to record the specifics of your injuries. This includes medical records, photos of injuries, if possible, and doctor’s notes if you can obtain them.

Your lawyer will use all this information and perform an extensive investigation so that they can piece together what happened during the accident and how to represent you should you need to go to trial. Try to give your lawyer as much information as possible. You never know how one small piece of evidence can help build a strong case.

Wrongful Death

Despite the fact that both people involved in the accident were killed, Coats family was legally able to file a lawsuit against Chrysler. While any amount of money will not bring back a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit can provide necessary compensation to help ease any financial burdens on the surviving family members.

If you and your family are forced to deal with the wrongful death of a loved one, it is essential that you know your rights and work with an attorney who can assist you with your wrongful death claim in a compassionate and sensitive way.

The personal injury attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC are well versed in handling cases of wrongful death and will support you in maneuvering the profound emotional trauma and potentially large financial burdens associated with the loss of your family member.

Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case

If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one that resulted from the negligence or misconduct of another, allow the attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC to educate you about your rights and to assist you in filing a wrongful death claim. You, the distributee, may seek monetary damages and compensation over the financial and/or emotional loss of your loved one. Wrongful death claims are time sensitive, so it is imperative that you contact a wrongful death attorney immediately if you have recently lost a loved one from the negligence or misconduct of another.

Wrongful death can be defined as a fatality resulting from the negligence, recklessness or deliberate, malicious behavior of another. An attorney must ascertain that the accused person exhibited wrongful actions that were the direct cause of the resultant injury and/or death of the victim. Common causes of wrongful death include car accidents, motorcycle accidents, birth injuries, truck accidents, medical malpractice and accidents associated with the workplace.

Different Factors of a Wrongful Death Case

Based on your relationship to the deceased, as well as other factors, you may be entitled to certain benefits and compensations. Whether you are the surviving spouse, children or parents, you may recover the loss of the decedent’s financial and emotional support as well as for your own emotional pain and suffering.

Based on the evidence of your wrongful death case, the court may also impose punitive damages on the defendant that are appropriate to their reckless, intentional and/or negligent behavior.

Working with a Personal Injury Attorney After an Accident

If you have been a victim of a false park defect accident, you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney that understands the specific laws around these types of accidents. They will be able to perform a full investigation and build your case. It’s crucial that you work with someone that knows the intricacies of the laws surrounding these types of cases as well as your specific state’s laws. The attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC have experience handling personal injury cases such as manufacturing defects such as false park defects. They will help build a case to ensure you receive everything you need to recover from your specific accident.

Types of Cases We Handle

Schedule a Risk Free Consultation With Our Top Rated Injury Attorneys