Complaint on behalf of the Walton family alleges inherent design flaws and instability contributed to the crash and make 15-passenger vans among the most deadly vehicles on the road today

MONTGOMERY, ALA. (October 22, 2010) – Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis and Miles, P.C. has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Horace Walton, whose daughter, Jennifer Leanne Walton, was killed on October 3, 2010, when the 1987 Dodge 15-passenger van in which she was a passenger rolled over several times and crashed. The van became uncontrollable after the tread on a rear tire separated, causing the tire to fail. The complaint (57-CV-2010-900201.00), filed today in the Circuit Court for Russell County, Alabama, alleges products liability, failure to warn, negligence and wantonness for the unsafe conditions of the van and tire. Defendants include Chrysler Group, L.L.C., Chrysler Group Vans, L.L.C., and R&J Tire Co. Inc.

“The real tragedy behind this crash and other fatal rollover crashes involving 15-passenger vans is that federal regulators and auto safety experts have known for years that these vans are unfit to transport people, and yet they continue to be manufactured,” says Jere L. Beasley, Founding Shareholder of Beasley Allen. “This vehicle is, by design, inherently unstable and unsafe and yet it is allowed to remain on the road. As a result, people are injured and killed. This type of tragedy is completely unnecessary. These vans are particularly uncontrollable when paired with a defective and unsafe tire that loses its tread. These 15-passenger vans are too dangerous to be on the road and are rolling death-traps!”

Fifteen-passenger vans were originally designed to haul cargo, not passengers, and so lack some basic safety features that are standard in other vehicles. Studies have shown that the vans are three times more likely to flip and roll in a crash when fully loaded. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were approximately 564,000 15-passenger vans in use in the U.S. on July 1, 2007, but only 7 percent were 2004 or newer models, meaning the vast majority of 15-passenger vans in use today lack even the most basic safety improvements and NHTSA-required warnings and advisories. Federal law even prohibits the sale of 15-passenger vans for the school-related transport of high school age and younger students.

Jere L. Beasley and Ben Baker from Beasley Allen and Derrell Dowdell, a lawyer from Columbus, Ga., will handle the case on behalf of the Walton family. “This tragedy has had a profound impact on our community,” says attorney Dowdell. “This situation could have been avoided if Chrysler had simply recalled these vans.”

Read the complaint.

NEWS stories about this case:

  • Lawsuit Filed in Van Crash Case – WRBL Channel 3
  • Complaint Filed by Family Whose Child Died in 15-passenger Van Crash – WLTZ 38 News

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