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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Chrysler Fails in Attempt to Hush Vehicle Owner

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On March 12, a Michigan man was driving his 2010 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon when he lost the usage of its brakes and steering. After rolling to a stop, the vehicle broke into flames. Fortunately, the man escaped safely.

He contacted Chrysler about the problem, but says he was shuffled throughout the company. After little help, the vehicle owner did some research only to learn that he was not alone. In January, another Rubicon owner experienced a similar situation; the driver and a passenger in this fiery blaze narrowly escaped injuries. There have been eight Wrangler cases reported to date; in seven cases the engine was running when the fires started.

After the Michigander sent Chrysler a video of his Jeep engulfed in flames and also posted it on YouTube, Chrysler contacted him with an offer to buy the Jeep back and reimburse the owner for all expenses. But, as part of the deal Chrysler wanted him to sign a non-disclosure basically requiring him to say nothing. Was he being “bought” to be quiet? Does this sound like Chrysler was more concerned about negative publicity ?

Chrysler said, “It is quite normal for customers to be required to sign a release in these matters in order to keep the settlement terms confidential. This was particularly important in a case with an inconclusive event investigation.” The vehicle owner refused the offer saying he wanted Chrysler to admit there is a serious problem and to address why these fires have occurred so many times before. To date, Chrysler has been dismissive of the claims saying “while we take all vehicle fires very seriously, poor maintenance, improper vehicle use, or the improper installati on of aftermarket equipment is often causes of vehicle fires."

In 2009, Chrysler issued a recall of 2007 and 2008 Wranglers because the auto transmissions would overheat and fluid would spew onto the manifolds catching the vehicle on fire. Chrysler's remedy was to activate a warning light on the dash that would flash when the transmission fluid temp erature reached critical levels. Too little, too late ? Did the 'bean counters” decide that redesign was too costly? Is this enough to keep consumers protected?

Auto manufacturers are responsible for the safety of the products they sell. Defective and dangerous vehicles place drivers, passengers and pedestrians at risk for serious injury or death. So why do manufacturers continue to cut corners as Chrysler did in the 2007 and 2008 Wrangler recall or its offer to buy back the Rubicon and request a non-disclosure statement from the customer ? Is it about profits and protecting the public image or is passenger safety paramount. You be the judge.

A defective vehicle is a danger to everyone; it can be a recipe for disaster. Manufacturers owe it to consumer to take responsibility by issuing a recall and correcting the problem. Equally important is that vehicle owners respond to the recalls by ensuring their vehicle is repaired. It is alarming the number of consumers who still ignore recall notices, even though the free repairs can rectify potentially disastrous design flaws. Whether procrastination, indifference, or plain oversight, safety and consumer experts say failure to act on a recall leaves drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk. The most effective means to receive timely recall notices is to sign up online for automatic recall notifications from the NHTSA at safercar.gov Web site. Shouldn't we, in the face of a recall, act responsibly for our own safety and the safety of others we may encounter on the road ?

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

2 Comments

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  1. Truckie D says:
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    Interesting post Mark. I got up on my soapbox in a slightly more general way at: http://truckied.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/freedom-of-speech/

    td

  2. Deb Monauni says:
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    My “total stock” 2007 wrangler caught on fire in February and was ingulfed in flames and exploded within seconds, I had just gotten home from work so the jeep was parked in front of my house and caught my house on fire when it exploded. This whole ordeal has made my life a mess. Chrysler has offered me nothing, and act as though I am not worth their time.