On March 20, 2004, Felix Lassiter, an elderly cattle farmer in South Montgomery County, Alabama, parked his new 2004 Dodge Ram 2500 vehicle in order to open a gate on his farm. Mr. Lassiter had just exited the truck when all of a sudden the vehicle started backing up. As you may know, the Dodge trucks were designed with a transmission that had a very large space between park and reverse. While Mr. Lassiter believed that he had the truck in park, it was not fully engaged. When the truck backed up, it ran over him, breaking his leg. Mr. Lassiter never recovered from the broken leg. He developed a non-union and the state of his health progressively declined. Mr. Lassiter died approximately two years after his accident. Medical doctors testified that the death was connected to complications associated with the broken leg. DaimlerChrysler issued a recall for the 2003 – 2005 model Dodge Ram heavy duty pick up trucks in March of 2006. The recall noted that:
DaimlerChrysler has determined 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. Unintended rearward movement of the vehicle could injure those in and/or near the vehicle.
As with most diesel trucks, users normally leave the engine running if they are only going to be out of the vehicle for a short period of time. As part of the recall, DaimlerChrysler installed out-of-park alarms to notify the operators that the vehicle may not be fully engaged in park. Significantly, most vehicles don’t have a significant dead space between park and reverse. As requested by DaimlerChrysler, the amount of the settlement in the Lassiter case has to be kept confidential. However, we believe it’s very important for the public to know what happened to Mr. Lassiter. Greg Allen from our firm along with Frank Hawthorne, Jr. of Montgomery handled this case for Mr. Lassiter’s family. They did an outstanding job in discovery and pretrial preparation resulting in settlement of the case without the necessity of a trial.