Chesnut v. DaimlerChrysler
and Michelin Corporation et al.
Church of God—Multiple Confidential
This lawsuit included allegations of manufacturing defects
against Michelin and unsafe design against DaimlerChrysler.
The lawsuit involved a Dodge Ram 3500 Van, a type of
extended passenger van typically used by churches and
schools. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
twice has warned consumers that extended passenger vans
become highly unstable and tend to roll during emergency
On May 8, 2001, 12 women were driving to a Gainesville,
Texas, outlet mall in a church-owned van when one of
the Michelin tires, sold as original equipment on the
vehicle, suddenly lost its tread.
The driver, Dorothy Griffin, a 62-year-old church
member, couldn't bring the large, 15-passenger van
under control. It crossed into the center median and
rolled over several times. Ms. Griffin and three friends
were killed in the wreck. The victims, all members
of the First Assembly of God church in Burkburnett,
contended DaimlerChrysler and Michelin were aware of
the possibility of a tire failure and its consequences,
but failed to provide proper warning about the risks
of driving the van.
The latest National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration
(NHTSA) warning, issued in April 2001, advised the
public that when carrying 10 or more passengers, these
vans are three times as likely to roll over in a than
if they carry 5 or fewer passengers. When fully loaded
with 15 passengers, they are six times more likely
Insurance companies which specialize in institutional
policies for schools and churches have in many cases
decided to drop coverage of these vehicles. Studies
of claims in accidents involving 15 passenger vans
indicated 8 deaths and 42 serious injuries in a two-year
period ending in 2001. Guide One, the nations largest
church insurance company in the United States will
no longer issue new policies on 15 passenger vans and
urges customers to purchase small school buses as an
According to government reports, 558 people were killed
in 388 large van rollovers in the U.S. between 1990
David Perry said that studies show that the van's
flawed design makes it susceptible to premature tire
failure and causes steering problems when fully loaded.
He also said two major defects in the tire caused it
to lose tread and fail.
The NTSB investigated the crash because the Dodge
1993 van is among the models of 15-passenger vans involved
in numerous fatal rollovers across the country, officials
In June 1999, the NTSB urged schools to use buses
instead of 15-passenger vans, a warning prompted by
a study of four school van crashes that killed eight
children and injured 36 others. Since November 1999,
the NTSB has studied at least 10 more rollovers that
killed 63 people and injured 65 more, including church
groups and college sports teams.
Federal officials issued a warning in April 2001 after
a study found that the vans are three times more likely
to roll over when carrying 10 or more people.
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