A Texas state court has approved a $3.3 million settlement against a used car dealership which sold a defective vehicle. Back in 2010, Chassey Bates was visiting her parents along with her three young sons, ages six, four and three weeks old. The children were put in the family’s minivan and the older sons were told to get “buckled up” so they could go home. One of the boys in the van got the car keys from his mother’s purse, started the van, and placed the vehicle in drive. The engine started and the van lurched forward, striking Chassey and her infant son. That child died from his injuries. Chassey suffered a broken leg, fractured vertebrae and other serious injuries. Her medical bills totaled approximately $250,000. Chassey’s mother, father and children witnessed the events surrounding this tragedy.
Chassey, along with her husband, mother, father and children, sued the car dealership that sold the minivan, as well as the vehicle’s manufacturer, alleging strict product liability and negligence. Among other things, they claimed that the dealership which sold the vehicle had disabled an important safety feature on the van. The disabled safety feature, a brake transmission shift interlock (BTSI), prevents vehicles from being put into gear unintentionally. Specifically, the BTSI prevents children, and others, from putting a vehicle into gear without depressing the brake pedal.
During discovery, the lawyers for the family found out that the safety feature had been disabled when a GPS device was installed on the minivan by the used car dealership which sold the minivan. Interestingly, the GPS device was installed so the car dealership could locate and repossess the vehicle in the event of non-payment.
The Plaintiffs claimed damages for wrongful death, medical injuries for Chassey and bystander claims for her mother, father and young children. The parties settled for $3.3 million with the used car dealership, MCMC Auto Group, Ltd. The case was filed in a Texas state court. Todd Ramsey and Jim Mitchell, lawyers with the Payne Mitchell Law Group in Dallas, and Jason Franklin, also a lawyer from Dallas, represented the family and they did a good job.
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