Court Revives Suit Over Old Couple’s SUV Death

     PASADENA (CN) – Chrysler must face claims that a “false-park” defect in the 2008 Grand Caravan killed an elderly California couple, the Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday.
     Police found the bodies of Rose and Roy Coats in the garage of their Menifee, Calif., home on Feb. 27, 2011, the decision states.
     While 75-year-old Rose had suffocated to death, pinned between the garage door frame and the open driver-side door of her Chrysler, her 83-year-old husband died of a heart attack.
     No one witnessed accident, but Rose’s children suspect that their mother had exited the Grand Caravan after parking.
     They say a false-park defect in the car’s automatic transmission caused the car to self-shift into reverse, at which point the vehicle pinned Rose and ran down Roy, causing the heart attack that killed him.
     Roy was found on the floor in front of Rose, his left ankle fractured under the front driver-side tire.
     A federal judge granted Chrysler summary judgment before the close of discovery and without a hearing in 2013, finding the allegations “insufficient to establish the requisite causal connection between defendant’s actions and decedents’ deaths.”
     The 9th Circuit reversed Wednesday, pointing to a declaration Rose’s children submitted from their design-defect expert, Gerald Rosenbluth, an automobile-defect investigator with 35 years of experience.
     Rosenbluth determined that a “false park” defect more likely than not caused the Coats’ deaths, and Rose’s attorney, Todd Walburg, said in an interview that the same defect has been linked to 15 known deaths, 200 injuries and 1,435 incidents.
     There are likely millions of extant vehicles that have the “false-park” defect, added Walburg, of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco.
     For Walburg, the Ninth Circuit has entered a “clear” mandate.
     “We’re excited to help these families who lost two loved ones in this incident, and we want to hold Chrysler accountable for what they’ve done,” he said.
     Chrysler could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. It is represented in the case by Sedgwick LLP in Los Angeles.

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