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Motor Vehicle Defects Found in 1997 Plymouth Voyager Minivan Lacks Brake Shift Interlock

Most motor vehicle defect attorneys will agree that minivans without brake shift interlock are a danger to everyone on the road. In 2006, four-year-old Gabriel Escobar was in the family's 1997 Plymouth Voyager minivan with the key in the ignition and the engine off. His mother was in the driveway walking toward the minivan when Gabriel shifted the vehicle out of "park." A babysitter briefly turned her attention away and was too late to grab Ian, Gabriel's 18-month-old brother, out of the minivan's path. Ian was trapped under the minivan's wheel and killed in the car accident.

The Escobars filed a auto product liability lawsuit against Chrysler. They alleged that the Voyager minivan was defective because, unlike most cars, the minivan did not have a brake shift interlock device that prevents it from being shifted out of park unless the brake pedal is depressed.

The amount and terms of the settlement are confidential. But a spokesman for the car manufacturer noted that Chrysler makes good cars, and that parents are responsible for what happens if they leave their kids in cars with the keys in the ignition. He remarked that Chrysler's settlement is not an admission of a product defect, adding that the only defect is the judgment of leaving children in a car with the keys inside.

There have been 23 similar car accident deaths nationwide, including a recent tragedy in Connecticut in which a toddler knocked a 1999 Grand Voyager out of park, sending it into a lake and drowning four. When parents pack a van for a trip and place children inside, it only takes a second for a curious child to set a car in motion due to the absence of brake shift interlock.

"These tragedies could have been avoided," noted nationally recognized defective auto products attorney, John Bisnar. "The majority of gear shift car accidents are caused by children moving the car into gear. In some instances, vehicles have shifted into gear on their own. A brake shift interlock could have saved lives. Most children will not engage the brake simultaneously as they are shifting gears, preventing the car from slipping into gear and resulting in a rollaway accident. Regrettably, Chrysler decided to forgo the $9 interlock device on its 1996-2000 model minivans because it was not a mandated safety feature. Bowing to pressure, Chrysler finally began installing brake shift interlock devices on its minivans in 2001. Sadly, in spite of tragedy after tragedy, Chrysler marketed and sold this minivan to families with this known design defect."

A recent 2006 voluntary agreement between Chrysler and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), all Chrysler vehicles will be equipped with a brake shift interlock device by 2010. "Unfortunately, this agreement does not require older vehicles to be recalled and upgraded with this safety device," observed John Bisnar. "This means that over 9 million Chrysler minivans sold are still without the brake shift interlock feature."

"When a car maker ignores a dangerous automobile defect in the face of repeated loss-of-life tragedies, they need to be held accountable" observed Brian Chase of the nationally recognized motor vehicle defects law firm of Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys. "The Escobars not only acted responsibly, but their courage in taking Chrysler to court may have prevented other families from suffering similar tragedies. The jury's award is America's message to Chrysler that their failure to act was not acceptable. Hopefully, this defective product lawsuit will help convince Chrysler to respond effectively to known safety defects in order to prevent further deaths and personal injuries."

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries as the result of a defective auto part or vehicle, contact the experienced California auto products liability attorneys at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation. We will use our extensive knowledge and resources to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.


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