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Chesnut v. DaimlerChrysler
and Michelin Corporation et al.

Burkburnett Church of God—Multiple Confidential Settlements

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 maneuvers.

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 to rollover.

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 alternative.

According to government reports, 558 people were killed in 388 large van rollovers in the U.S. between 1990 and 2000.

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 said.

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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Our web site describes some of the cases that the attorneys of Perry & Haas have worked on in the past.

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