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1998 Dodge Caravan Tire Defect, Gasoline Leak Lead to Fire Resulting In Catastrophic Injury

Attorneys for Plaintiffs HETHALEIN MARES,
STEPHEN A. MARES; STEPHEN J. MARES;
SETH MARES; and SOPHIA MARES
SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA

COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES

HETHALEIN MARES; STEPHEN A. MARES; STEPHEN J. MARES; SETH MARES, a minor, by and through his Guardian ad Litem HETHALEIN MARES; and SOPHIA MARES, a minor, by and through her Guardian ad litem HETHALEIN MARES,

Plaintiffs,
vs.
CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC; RUSNAK CORPORATION, a California corporation, and DOES 1 - 100, inclusive,
Defendants.

CASE NO: 6C044931

COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

  1. Strict Product Liability
  2. Negligent Product Liability
  3. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
  4. Loss of Consortium

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

Come now plaintiffs HETHALEIN MARES, as Guardian ad Litem for the minor plaintiffs SETH MARES and SOPHIA MARES and as an individual, STEPHEN A. MARES, and STEPHEN J. MARES, and for causes of action against defendants, allege as follows:

ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO ALL CAUSES OF ACTION

  1. Plaintiff HETHALEIN MARES is a competent adult resident of Los Angeles County and the Guardian ad Litem for the minor plaintiffs SETH MARES and SOPHIA MARES, and the wife of plaintiff STEPHEN A. MARES.
  2. Plaintiff STEPHEN A. MARES is a competent adult resident of Los Angeles County and the husband of plaintiff HETHALEIN MARES.
  3. Plaintiff STEPHEN J. MARES is a competent adult resident of Los Angeles County, and the father of plaintiff STEPHEN A. MARES and the grandfather of the minor plaintiffs SETH MARES and SOPHIA MARES.
  4. Defendant CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC is, upon information and belief, a Delaware limited liability company incorporated and/or formed on April 28, 2009, which by law and/or contract assumed and succeeded to all legal obligations and responsibilities of Chrysler, LLC, which was the manufacturer of the SUBJECT VEHICLE described herein. Said defendant has not designated, in the records of the State of California, a principal place of business within the State of California, so venue of this action is proper in Los Angeles County, pursuant to Code Civ. Proc. §395.5, Corp. C. §2105(a)(3), and/or other law.
  5. Defendant RUSNAK CORPORATION. is a California corporation whose principal place of business is in Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California, who upon information and belief was a seller of the SUBJECT VEHICLE described herein.
  6. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and allege thereon that defendants, DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, were and are individuals, partnerships, corporations, and/or business entities, qualified and/or authorized to do business in the State of California and were at all times herein mentioned, doing business within the State of California, in the Counties of Los Angeles and San Diego. The true names and/or capacities, whether individual, corporate associate, governmental or otherwise of defendant Does 1 through 100, inclusive and each of them are unknown to the plaintiffs, who therefore sue said defendants by such fictitious names. When the true names and/or capacities of said defendants are ascertained, the plaintiffs will seek leave of this court to amend the complaint accordingly.
  7. The plaintiffs are informed and believe, and based thereupon allege, that each defendant designated herein as a Doe was responsible, negligently or in some other actionable manner, for the events and happenings herein referred to which proximately caused the damages to the plaintiffs as hereinafter alleged, either through said defendant's own negligence or through the conduct of its agents, servants, employees or representatives in some other manner.
  8. The plaintiffs are informed and believe and based thereupon allege that at all times mentioned herein the defendants and each of them were the agents, servants, employees, representatives and/or joint venturers of their co-defendants and were, as such acting within the course, scope and authority of said agency, services, employment, representation and/or joint venture in that each and every defendant, as aforesaid when acting as principal, was negligent in the selection and hiring of each and every other defendant as an agent, servant, employee, representative and/or joint venturer.
  9. The plaintiffs are informed and believe, and based thereupon allege that at all times mentioned herein each of the defendants, including defendant Does 1 through 100, inclusive, and each of them were the agents, servants, employees, representatives of each of the remaining defendants and were at all times material hereto acting within the authorized course and scope of said agency, service, employment and/or representation, and/or that all of said acts, conduct and omissions were subsequently ratified by their respective principals and the benefits thereof accepted by such principals.
  10. At the time the SUBJECT VEHICLE was manufactured, Chrysler LLC, then known as DaimlerChrysler, Rusnak Corporation, and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, were engaged in the business of manufacturing, fabricating, designing, assembling, distributing, selling, inspecting, servicing, repairing, marketing, warranting, selling, retailing, wholesaling and advertising a certain subject 1998 Dodge Caravan, Vehicle Identification Number 2B4FP25B4WR677284, California License No. 4AXN446, and each and every component part thereof, (hereinafter, the SUBJECT VEHICLE), which Chrysler LLC, Rusnak Corporation and the Doe defendants knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, would be used without inspection for defects in its parts, mechanisms or design, for use in the State of California and elsewhere.
  11. On or about October 18, 2009, between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m., all plaintiffs, with plaintiff STEPHEN A. MARE as the driver, were occupants of the SUBJECT VEHICLE as it traveled on Interstate 5 in Orange County near Culver Drive in Irvine. The vehicle experienced sudden failure of its left rear tire, which required the driver to initiate an emergency stop on the right shoulder. Due to a defect in the design and/or manufacture of the fuel system of the vehicle, there was leakage of gasoline in liquid and/or vapor form from one or more parts of said fuel system in the area near the left rear tire, and in the sequence of events after the tire failure said gasoline was ignited. When the vehicle came to a complete stop, it was quickly and fully engulfed in flame with the occupants still inside. In the course of being in the burning vehicle and exiting from it, each plaintiff, except for plaintiff HETHALIEN MARES, suffered severe, extremely painful and permanently disfiguring burn injuries, which have in turn cause severe, painful and permanent emotional injuries both past and future, the nature and extent of which will be proved at trial.
  12. Each of the above paragraphs 1 through 11, inclusive, are incorporated by reference into each cause of action stated below.
  13. FIRST CAUSES OF ACTION - STRICT PRODUCT LIABILITY

    (Against Defendants CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC, RUSNAK CORPORATION and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive)

  14. Chrysler, LLC, for which defendant CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC is legally responsible, RUSNAK CORPORATION, and DOES 1 through 100, and each of them, knew that the SUBJECT VEHICLE was to be purchased and used without inspection for defects by the users of that vehicle including but not limited to the plaintiffs.
  15. The SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts was manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, supplied, leased, rented, repaired, serviced, adjusted, selected and used with inherent vices and defects both in design and manufacturing and by failure to warn (hereinafter "SUBJECT DEFECTS") which made it dangerous, hazardous and unsafe both for its intended use or for reasonably foreseeable misuses.
  16. These SUBJECT DEFECTS in the design of the fuel tank and filler neck assembly installed in the SUBJECT VEHICLE included but are not limited to:
    • The location of the fuel filler neck spud in the middle to the lower half of the fuel tank, which allows fuel to spill by force of gravity out of the spud in the event the filler neck hose should pull off of the spud or otherwise become compromised, along with a greater tendency for the hose to pull off due to insufficient length and the bead on the tank spud being ramped with a too-shallow angle to afford proper resistance to pull-off forces;
    • The routing of the fuel filler neck through the rear wheel well to where it is attached to the rear quarter panel leaves the filler neck exposed in a way that allows tire tread separation or other debris to come into contact with it;
    • Lack of a fuel tank check valve to prevent fuel from escaping from the fuel tank in the event of a compromise to the filler neck.
    • Lack of any warnings and/or insufficient warnings regarding the above defects.
  17. Said product and each of its component parts was unsafe for its intended use and reasonably foreseeable misuses by reason of the defects in its design and/or manufacturing and/or failure to warn by said defendants, and each of them, in that when the SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts was used by the plaintiffs as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner, the SUBJECT VEHICLE, during reasonably foreseeable driving maneuvers, was dangerous and defective in that it was subject to having its fuel supply ignited by extrinsic heat or sparks generated by the action of the failing tire and the vehicle driver's response to that situation.
  18. As a direct and legal result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, and the defects inherent in the vehicle, serious and permanent injuries were caused thereby to the plaintiffs, legally resulting in plaintiffs' special and general damages in a sum in excess of the minimum subject matter jurisdiction of this Superior Court according to proof at trial.
  19. ALLEGATIONS RE LIABILITY FOR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES AGAINST DEFENDANT CHRYSLER GROUP LLC ONLY (Paragraphs 18 through 21, inclusive)

  20. Prior to and during the design, manufacture, assembly, distribution and sale of the SUBJECT VEHICLE, and after by virtue of official action by the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration and the company's investigation and response thereto, Chrysler LLC, then known as DaimlerChrysler, knew (1) that its chosen routing of the fuel filler neck, the location of the fuel filler neck spud, the dimensions of the bead on the spud, the length of the filler neck rubber hose, and the lack of a fuel tank check valve subjected the fuel system to an unnecessarily increased risk of fuel leaks and fuel-fed fires during normal and foreseeable vehicle operation circumstances, (2) that such design was defective and unreasonably dangerous to users under such normal and foreseeable circumstances such as those which materialized in this instance, (3) that other feasible and safer design alternatives were available which would have significantly reduced the risks of fuel-fed fires such as happened in this instance, including but not limited to making said components out of different materials, incorporating check valves and/or other anti-siphoning devices, and utilizing protective shields and bladders, (4) that fuel-fed fires often result in horrific burn injuries to the occupants of vehicles and that such injuries cause tremendous conscious pain, suffering and debilitation, and (5) that it was advertising and marketing the SUBJECT VEHICLE and others like it as suitable for use as a passenger vehicle on public highways without disclosure of the heightened risks and high likelihood of fuel system storage failure, when in fact it was not due to the aforedescribed defects, and lack of warnings.
  21. Despite the above-referenced knowledge and notice, Chrysler LLC knowingly, recklessly, willfully and with conscious disregard for the safety of these users of the SUBJECT VEHICLE and other users of similar vehicles, for the purpose of advancing its pecuniary interests, designed, marketed and sold such vehicles to the consuming public, without any warning whatsoever of the existence of the defects and with the conscious decision not to utilize safer and available design alternatives. After becoming aware of numerous incidents of such failure and the results of its investigation as required by NHTSA, knowingly, recklessly, and willfully and with conscious disregard for the safety of users of the SUBJECT VEHICLE and others like it, failed to recall, notify owners, or otherwise remedy the unreasonably dangerous and defective condition of the fuel containment system. Such actions were despicable, because such conduct would and does kill and/or seriously injure people.
  22. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that the decisions referenced above were made by corporate management of Chrysler LLC and were the product of corporate policy, in that such major and strategic design and manufacturing decisions could, because of the corporate structure of Chrysler LLC, be made only at the level of corporate management as the product of corporate policy, given the substantial capitalization requirements and risks associated with company-wide, high-level design, manufacturing, production and marketing decisions for the purpose of conscious disregard of public safety for pecuniary gain.
  23. Due to the conduct alleged in paragraphs 18 through 20, inclusive, an award of exemplary damages against defendant CHRYSLER GROUP LLC is warranted under California Civil Code §3294 as proper and appropriate as punishment and deterrence.
  24. SECOND CAUSES OF ACTION NEGLIGENT PRODUCT LIABILITY

    (Against Defendants CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC, RUSNAK CORPORATION, and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive)

  25. Plaintiffs incorporate, repeat and re-allege each and every allegation in paragraphs 1 through 17 above, and incorporate the same by reference as though set forth herein.
  26. At all times mentioned, Chrysler LLC, RUSNAK CORPORATION, and DOES 1 through 100 had a duty to properly manufacture, design, assemble, package, test, fabricate, analyze, inspect, merchandise, market, distribute, label, advertise, promote, sell, and provide adequate warnings about the SUBJECT VEHICLE.
  27. At all times mentioned, Chrysler LLC, RUSNAK CORPORATION, and DOES 1 through 100 knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known that the SUBJECT VEHICLE and each of its component parts were not properly manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, and provided inadequate warnings and/or no warnings for the use and purpose for which it was intended in that it was likely to injure or kill the person(s) who used said vehicle.
  28. Chrysler, LLC, RUSNAK CORPORATION, and DOES 1 through 100, so negligently and carelessly, manufactured, designed, assembled, packaged, tested, fabricated, analyzed, inspected, merchandised, marketed, modified, distributed, labeled, advertised, promoted, sold, supplied, leased, rented, repaired, serviced, maintained, selected and provided inadequate warnings with respect to the SUBJECT VEHICLE that it was a defective and dangerous product, unsafe for the respective use and purpose for which it was intended when used and driven as recommended or for reasonably foreseeable misuse by members of the public, including the plaintiffs. In particular, said SUBJECT VEHICLE, during a reasonably foreseeable tire failure event, was dangerous and defective in that leakage of fuel from the fuel system caused ignition of such fuel and resulting fire.
  29. As a direct and legal result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, and the defects inherent in the vehicle, serious and permanent injuries were caused thereby to the plaintiffs, legally resulting in plaintiffs' special and general damages in a sum in excess of the minimum subject matter jurisdiction of this Superior Court according to proof at trial.
  30. THIRD CAUSES OF ACTION

    NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS (Against Defendants CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC, RUSNAK CORPORATION and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive)

  31. Plaintiffs incorporate by reference as though fully set forth herein, paragraphs 1 through 26 exclusive of paragraphs 18 through 21, inclusive.
  32. Each plaintiff suffered serious emotional distress as a result of perceiving the serious injuries and danger to the other occupants of the vehicle, who were all family members:
    • Plaintiff HETHALEIN MARES observed serious personal injuries and danger to her husband STEPHEN A. MARES, her children SETH MARES and SOPHIA MARES, and her father-in-law STEPHEN J. MARES.
    • Plaintiff STEPHEN A. MARES observed serious personal injuries and danger to his children SETH MARES and SOPHIA MARES, and his father STEPHEN J. MARES.
    • The minor plaintiffs SETH MARES and SOPHIA MARES observed serious personal injuries and danger to their father STEPHEN A. MARES and their grandfather STEPHEN J. MARES, and to each other.
    • Plaintiff STEPHEN J. MARES observed serious personal injuries and danger to his grandchildren SETH MARES and SOPHIA MARES, and his son STEPHEN A. MARES.
  33. As described above, Chrysler LLC and DOES 1 through 100 negligently caused the serious injuries to plaintiffs by reason of the defects inherent in the SUBJECT VEHICLE.
  34. Because each plaintiff was present in the SUBJECT VEHICLE at the time of the tire failure and subsequent fire he or she was aware that his or her family member was being seriously injured by the fire. As a direct and legal result thereof, each plaintiff suffered serious emotional distress, including but not limited to suffering, anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry shock, humiliation, and shame, such that an ordinary, reasonable person would be unable to cope with the serious emotional distress, and thus has suffered resulting damages in amounts to be proved.
  35. FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION LOSS OF CONSORTIUM

    (Against Defendants CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC, RUSNAK CORPORATION and DOES 1 through 100, Inclusive)

  36. Plaintiff HETHALEIN MARES incorporates by reference as though fully set forth herein, paragraphs 1 through 18, inclusive, and 23 through 26, inclusive.
  37. As a proximate result of the injuries to her husband STEPHEN A. MARES, plaintiff HETHALEIN MARES has suffered loss of consortium with her husband, to her damage in amounts to be proved at trial.

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs pray for judgment against defendants and each of them, as follows:

  1. For special and economic damages including medical expenses, and loss of past and future earnings and earning capacity, according to proof at trial;
  2. For general damages including damages for loss of consortium and emotional distress and suffering;
  3. For prejudgment interest, as determined by and accrued according to applicable statutes;
  4. For costs of suit incurred herein; and
  5. For any other and further relief the Court deems just and proper.
  6. Exemplary and punitive damages, by all plaintiffs, against defendant CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC only.

DATED: April 20, 2010 Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys

By:__________________________________
BRIAN D CHASE, ESQ.
STEVEN R. MEEKS, ESQ.
Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

Plaintiffs hereby demand a trial by jury.

DATED:April 20, 2010 BISNAR | CHASE

By:__________________________________
BRIAN D CHASE, ESQ.
STEVEN R. MEEKS, ESQ.
Attorneys for Plaintiffs

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