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Brian Chase Comments on Rental Car Safety Act: A 'No Brainer' to Protect Consumers

Mother of girls killed in recalled Enterprise rental car wages campaign to change safety laws; Hertz shows support while Enterprise maintains opposition.

March 12, 2012 -- NEWPORT BEACH, California --The California Personal Injury Attorneys of Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys (http://www.bestattorney.com) say they support rental car safety legislation that would make it illegal for vehicles under recall to be rented until they're repaired, calling it a 'no brainer' for protecting innocent consumers from serious injuries and death.

The bill, known as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, stems from a 2004 incident in which two sisters, Raechel and Jacqueline Houck of Santa Cruz, California, ages 24 and 20, died in a fiery crash while driving a recalled PT Cruiser they rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Houck v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, No. HG052220018, Alameda County, California Superior Court, Judgment 6/9/10). The PT Cruiser had been recalled due to a defective power steering hose that was prone to leaking and catching on fire, but was not repaired before being rented to the Houck sisters.

"Like the fox guarding the henhouse, Enterprise says it chooses which recalled vehicles are repaired and which ones aren't," said Brian Chase, partner at Bisnar Chase. "It's ridiculous. Rental car companies buy the largest numbers of new cars in the U.S. and they are the largest source of used cars, yet there are no regulations in place to prevent innocent consumers from being seriously injured or killed from known defects in rental cars."

Currently, rental car companies are permitted to rent cars under recall even though it's illegal for car dealers to sell those same cars until repairs are made. In letters submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last year, major rental car companies admitted to federal regulators they rented vehicles under recall due to safety defects1. While Hertz recently expressed its support of rental car safety legislation, Enterprise Rent-A-Car continues to be the biggest impediment in closing the loophole, says Chase.

Times could be changing for the industry, however. Cally Houck -- Raechel and Jacqueline's mother -- has waged a high-profile news and social media campaign to garner support of the bill, turning to outlets like USA Today and KABC-TV Los Angeles and to online forums like Change.org to mobilize public support of the bill.

"When we first posted the petition two weeks ago, we were receiving 10,000 signatures an hour," said Houck. "To date, over 152,000 people have signed the petition -- many who are Enterprise customers indicating they refuse to rent more cars from the company until it supports this legislation. Change.org gives the little guy a voice. In this case, a very large and powerful voice sending a very clear message to Enterprise to stop renting unsafe cars."

Brian Chase was part of a KABC-TV Los Angeles rental car safety report last week, weighing in on cars under recall or missing critical safety equipment, such as the Ford Expedition lacking electronic stability control (ESC) which was rented by Enterprise to Gloria Levesque, a Bisnar Chase client who was rendered an incomplete quadriplegic in a 2003 rollover crash.

Chase said his firm settled with Enterprise and Ford in the Gloria Levesque case and has been involved in a number of lawsuits against Enterprise in which the company knowingly rented dangerous 15-passenger vans to consumers who were unaware of safety problems.

Chase says money is the single biggest motivating factor when it comes to rental car companies and unsafe cars.

"A company can save money by purchasing cars without certain safety features and it can make money by continuing to rent cars under recall versus sending them in for repairs," said Chase. "It's a matter of greed versus human safety."

Chase says consumers should check the cars they're renting ahead of time before signing on the dotted line. "Inquire about the car you're renting and whether or not it's subject to a safety recall. If it is, rent something else. If the rental agent can't answer your question, go somewhere else."

To support the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, visit Cally Houck's Change.org petition.

1 Jondi Gumz, Assemblyman Monning to Introduce Rental Car Safety Bill, March 23, 2011, http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_17676460

About Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys

The Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys represent people who have been very seriously injured or lost a family member due to an accident, defective product, negligence or unsafe rental car throughout the country from their Newport Beach, California headquarters. The auto defects law firm has won a wide variety of auto defect cases against most of the major auto manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Nissan and Chrysler, manufacturer of the PT Cruiser. Brian Chase is the author of the most up-to-date and comprehensive auto defect book available today, Still Unsafe at Any Speed: Auto Defects that Cause Wrongful Deaths and Catastrophic Injuries. For more information, visit Mr. Chase's blog at http://www.ProductDefectNews.com.

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