Couple appeals Chrysler lawsuit
Posted on Wednesday, January 7, 2009
An Avoca couple is appealing a product liability lawsuit against Chrysler Motors after a Washington County jury exonerated the automaker during a 13-day trial in November.
The appeal filed Monday by Shadrick and Lydia Adams seeks to recover damages for head injuries their two children sustained while riding in the back seats of a 1994 Dodge Caravan during an accident on Sept. 25, 2005.
The Adams blame faulty seat design that allowed the front seats to give way upon rear impact and the parents' heads to smash into the front of their children's heads.
The Adams are also appealing damages totaling almost $342,000 against Linda Childers Knapp, who was talking on her cell phone when her 2004 white Jeep Cherokee rear-ended the Adams' minivan.
Ray Niblock, a Fayetteville attorney representing the Adams, said the appeal focuses on three rulings:
· One allowing four preemptory strikes to each party, which in effect allowed the defense to have twice as many as the plaintiff.
· A second denying the plaintiff's request to eliminate certain jurors for cause and court overruled motions.
· The third over a jury instruction relating to the cause of the injury.
The Niblock firm and the Atlanta-based firm of Butler, Wooten and Fryhoffer were betting on a big award from Chrysler to recover their substantial investment - estimated in the hundreds of thousands - in a case requiring lots of paperwork and six days of hearing on pretrial motions.
Chrysler argued that its vehicle meets all federal safety standards and that the intrusion of Knapp's vehicle prevented the children's seat from giving way backwards as designed and avoiding impact from the front passengers.
One key fact in dispute in this case was how fast Knapp's vehicle was going when it hit the minivan. Knapp testified she was driving about 53 mph, and Chrysler's experts said it was between 65 and 77 mph, based on the damage to the vehicles.
The crash occurred in the left, eastbound lane of the Fulbright Expressway in Fayetteville, south of the Northwest Arkansas Mall. Knapp did not realize that traffic had stalled because of a parade for Fayetteville's Bikes, Blues & BBQ festival, her attorney said.