DaimlerChrysler appealed a $5 million jury award given to a couple whose unborn son was fatally injured when their Jeep Grand Cherokee backed up out of the blue and pinned the mother against a brick column. A recent ruling by an appellate court rejected the car company's claim that the trial judge made fatal errors in the original trial.
August and Juli Guillot won their lawsuit in 2008, when they claimed the Jeep's transmission had a defective design that caused it to suddenly shift from park to reverse after the Guillots had gotten out of the vehicle. Miami auto accident attorneys following the case note that DaimlerChyrysler continues to deny the defect.
The 1999 accident seemed to have been caused by leaving the car in reverse, but the Guillots sued in 2001 after receiving a call from a Los Angeles Times reporter investigating similar "park-to-reverse" complaints about Jeep Grand Cherokees.
A three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit rejected the Chrysler's claim that the suit should be thrown out because the Guillots missed a deadline for suing. A "vehicle defect was never suspected by the investigating officer, and Mr. Guillot blamed himself for the accident for two years," the panel said. The couple didn't have the appropriate information to file a claim at the moment the accident occurred.
The appellate court also upheld the amount of the award.
The Guillots were on their way to the hospital where Juli Guillot was to give birth on May 21, 1999. Before they departed, Juli got out of the Jeep Grand Cherokee to retrieve a book from the back seat while her husband went to retrieve a cell phone.
That's when the Jeep started to move backward and crushed Juli's midsection between a car door and the column.
Collin Guillot was born with permanent brain damage. He was removed from life support on June 7, 1999.
The Guillots are glad the verdict was upheld, adding that DaimlerChrysler had blamed them for the accident and claimed it was "all their fault."
Source: Mercury News "$5M jury award upheld in fatal Jeep accident" 9/28/2010