A Pennsylvania appeals court has determined that Chrysler Group should not be punished for providing an air bag that saved the lives of a Philadelphia mother and her unborn child.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania threw out the February, 1999 $58.5 million verdict in Crawley v. Chrysler, which was the largest air bag litigation award at the time. The court also ruled that the lawsuit never should have been granted class action status in the first place. The case involves a woman who credits the air bag in her 1989 Chrysler LeBaron with saving her and her unborn child from serious injury -- and possibly even death -- but who experienced a minor hand burn that healed within two weeks following a 1992 accident.
"Justice was finally served today," said Ken Gluckman, vice president and associate general counsel for DaimlerChrysler Corporation. "But it's outrageous that we had to spend six million dollars in defense costs and many years in court to defend a device that has saved over 6,800 lives. This suit is like holding the manufacturer of a bullet-proof vest responsible because it's product saved someone's life, but left a few bruised ribs."
Crawley v. Chrysler is a class action brought on behalf of approximately 75,000 Pennsylvania residents who own Chrysler vehicles (model years 1988 - 1990) with driver air bags that have vents at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions and point away from the driver, similar to other vehicles of that era. These vents allow for the rapid deflation of the air bag following deployment -- a critical feature in any air bag system.
In it's ruling in favor of Chrysler Group, the Superior Court determined that "the trial court abused its discretion" and concluded that "the case should not have proceeded to trial as a class action." The Superior Court's order to "decertify the class" means the case is finished as a class action.
Chrysler Group was the first manufacturer to introduce air bags as standard equipment on affordable, volume-produced vehicles in 1988. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), air bags are credited with saving 6,856 lives as of April, 2001.