Lilly Stellanger, died in Chrysler vehicle, April 2007
Skull and Crossbones
Nine consumer groups have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission ( FTC) asking that a skull and crossbones sticker be put on used Chrysler automobiles to warn prospective customers that the manufacturer will not assume liability for any injuries or death.
The nine groups including Consumers Union, and the Center for Auto Safety.
Chrysler was absolved of any defective product liability claims following its sale to Italian automaker, Fiat, and its April filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The deal allowed Chrysler to unload assets such as factories and franchise agreements, as well as pending claims by about 300 consumers or their survivors who were injured or killed in defective Chrysler vehicles.
On May 30, 2009, when Chrysler became the “New Chrysler” it was absolved of liability for future claims from consumers riding in approximately 30 million used Chryslers still on the road.
Chryslers have had a host of problems that consumers need to be warned about, according to the petition including, but not limited to:
* Collapsing seat backs – The defect exists in over 10 million vehicles model years 1990 to 2009.
* SUVs with collapsing roofs – Since 1994, Chrysler has produced over two million Grand Cherokee SUV with roofs that tend to buckle or cave in, resulting in traumatic head injuries and paralysis.
* Tailgate Latch failures – Minivan tailgates flew open resulting in 40 deaths, many of them children, yet only half of the 4.1 minivans were repaired
* Jeep Grand Cherokee – Fuel Tanks mounted to the rear of the axle tend to explode during collisions. Fire deaths are a danger posed by approximately three million vehicles 1993 to 2004.
Other problems recorded by Chrysler vehicles include shifting gears out of park, and seat belts that were prone to open.
The consumer groups point out that consumers are in the dark about the defects and need to be warned of the risk of injury and death. Under the 1984 Used Car Rule, full disclosure about the dealer’s warranty should be provided to prospective buyers to prevent oral misrepresentation and unfair omissions of material facts by used car dealers.
A report issued in June by the advocacy group, Safety Research and Strategies Inc., using federal data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, predicted more than 3,400 Americans will be injured or killed by defective GM or Chrysler cars in the first year post-bankruptcy.
Letters to Board of Directors
And in separate letters to Chrysler’s Board of Directors by people injured by Chrysler vehicles, the board is asked if they would, “Let your son, daughter, or other family member drive one of these potentially dangerous cars knowing that they would be left unprotected if a defect caused them harm?”
In addition, the Chrysler victims sent a video from a crash involving a 1996 Dodge Caravan showing the seat collapsing backward causing the head of the driver to crush the skull of the child in the back seat, not unlike what happened to five-year-old Lily Stellanger, who died in April 2007.
In presenting the crash footage, the victims wrote, “You can plainly see why we are concerned and why consumers deserve to know what the risks are of purchasing a used Chrysler car manufactured prior to the bankruptcy.”
According to the Center for Justice & Democracy, Chrysler victims who sent letters include Bradley Catalano and Christina Catalano, whose mother, Linda Catalano, was killed when a Chrysler minivan “self-shifted” into reverse, dragging her under the car; Michael McCauley, whose daughter lost her grandmother, Linda Catalano in that accident; Joshua S Stellanger, whose five year old daughter, Lily, was killed when their Chrysler experienced “seat back failure” after being rear-ended, resulting in their seat collapsing and crushing Lily; and Robb and Patricia Warriner, the parents of Jeremy Warriner, whose legs were so badly burned by a fire in a Chrysler vehicle that they had to be amputated.
The new Chrysler Board members who received the package of information include: Governor James J. Blanchard, Alfredo Altavilla, C. Robert Kidder, George F.J. Gosbee, Sergio Marchionne, Douglas Steenland, Scott Stuart, Ronald L. Thompson, and Stephen Wolf.
IB News called Scott M. Stuart and James Blanchard Tuesday to get reaction to the petition and letters. We will post their response when they reply.
In testimony in the bankruptcy hearing for Chrysler last May, CEO Bob Nardelli admitted those individuals injured with claims would have to turn to the bankrupt Old Chrysler.
Will the bad publicity hurt sales of used Chryslers? he was asked.
“Consumers might be willing to take the risk if it had an attractive price on it,” said Nardelli. #