Daimler-Chrysler has settled a wrongful death claim brought by the family of Felix Lassiter who was killed as the result of a defect in his 2004 Dodge Ram-2500.
On March 20, 2004, Mr. Lassiter, a farmer in South Montgomery County, Alabama, parked his defective truck in order to get out and open a gate on his farm. As he got out of the truck, the vehicle started backing up suddenly and ran over him.
Although Mr. Lassiter thought that his truck was in "park", it was not. The defect related to the fact that there was significant dead-space between "park" and "reverse" on the gear shift.
When the truck backed over Mr. Lassiter, it broke his leg. Unfortunately, he never recovered from this broken leg and his health progressively declined. His doctors testified that his death was related to complications associated with his broken leg.
In March of 2006, Daimler-Chrysler had recalled the 2003 -2005 model Dodge Ram trucks. The manufacturer had concluded that, in certain circumstances when a driver has not placed the shift lever fully into the "park" position and leaves the engine running, the vehicle may unexpectedly move rearward after seeming to be stable. It is the unintended rearward movement that causes injury to those in or near the vehicle.
It is not unusual with diesel trucks for drivers to leave their engine running if they are going to be out of the vehicle for short periods of time.
In connection with the recall, Daimler-Chrysler installed out-of-park alarms to notify operators that the trucks are not fully in the "park" position.
Daimler-Chrysler settled the claim but required that the amount of the settlement be held. The family was represented by the prominent products liability firm of former Alabama Lt. Governor, Jere Beasley.