Chrysler settles minivan latch failure case allegedly resulting in boy’s death


On December 31, 1995, Plaintiff-Decedent, Khalif Stowers, was a rear seat passenger in a 1986 Dodge Caravan (“minivan”) designed, manufactured and sold by or on behalf of DaimlerChrylser Corporation. The lawsuit arose following a collision between a tractor-trailer owned by Traffik Services, Inc. and operated by Neil Horan, Sr. and the minivan, which was owned and operated by Diane Bridges.

Suit was brought against the driver of the tractor-trailer, Neil Horan, Sr., and his employer, Traffik Services, Inc. As to DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Zajac’s client claimed that the minivan was not crashworthy. More specifically, with respect to the design of the rear liftgate latch and rear seat of the minivan, the rear liftgate opened during the accident scenario, causing Khalif to be ejected onto the highway, where he was immeadiately run over by an unknown vehicle. There was no claim that the boy suffered any conscious pain and suffering as a result of this incident. A large number of pretrial depositions were taken. Trial of this case was expected to last 4-8 weeks. Each side identified over 1,000 exhibits. Plaintiff’s Witness List included in excess of 80 witnesses at the time of trial.

As trial approached, approximately twenty-five Motions in Limine were filed. Eighteen of those Motions were argued on the first scheduled day of trial, August 7, 2000. The jury was selected over a two (2) day period on August 8 and 9, 2000. On the fourth day of trial, prior to opening speeches, the Honorable Howland Abrahamson, trial judge, held another settlement conference. Judge Abrahamson made a settlement recommendation which Defendant DaimlerChrysler Corporation agreed to offer, and which Plaintiff agreed to accept, pending Court approval. Additionally, Defendants Neil Horan, Jr. and Traffik Services, Inc. separately reached a settlement agreement with Plaintiff a few days earlier, also pending Court approval.

The amount of the settlement is confidential.