DaimlerChrysler levied $55.2 million penalty in port terminal death
A Los Angeles jury has awarded the family of a man run over by a Dodge truck at a Port of Los Angeles container terminal in 2004 a $55.2 million judgment.
The Los Angeles Superior Court decision found that a defect in the Dodge Dakota pickup, owned by the terminal operator, caused the death of Richard Mraz. The 38-year-old longshore worker was working at the port’s APL terminal when the truck began to reverse after he exited the vehicle. Mraz attempted to stop the vehicle, was knocked to the ground by the impact and suffered a fatal head injury.
The alleged defect occurs when the transmission is placed in what appears to be the park position, then allegedly slips into powered reverse after a short delay.
The decision, which found DaimlerChrysler 75 percent at fault, also found APL, owner of the truck, 15 percent at fault and Mraz 10 percent at fault.
APL settled with the family before the trial began.
DaimlerChrysler is considering an appeal according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, and the automaker blames the accident on driver error, contending Mraz left the 1992-model vehicle in reverse when he exited.
A recall was issued by the automaker in 2000 to fix the transmission problem, but jurors found that the truck that struck Mraz had not been repaired, and DaimlerChrysler could not prove it had sent a notice to APL regarding the recall.
The jury found that despite the recall, which covered all Dakotas built to that time since 1988, DaimlerChrysler’s overall effort to repair the defect had been inadequate. The recall eventually extended to cover Dakotas through 2003.
DaimlerChrysler denies any possible defect caused vehicles to suddenly slip into reverse. But during trial, plaintiffs introduced a 1999 internal memo by DaimlerChrysler indicating the company was aware of a potential problem regarding the parking gear, but feared liability and failed to properly investigate, Mraz family co-counsel Chuck Naylor told the Press-Telegram.