The Power of Knowledge
In a twist of timing that will forever be remembered when I am absent from any event, the day after my younger daughter was born in January 2007, I left my then 3-year-old and my newborn to my wife and her mother-in-law and flew down to Los Angeles for the opening statements in a case called Mraz v. DaimlerChrysler one day later. Richard Mraz had suffered fatal head injuries when the 1992 Dodge Dakota pickup truck he had been driving at his work site ran him over after he exited the vehicle believing it was in park. I had worked for a year to get the case ready for trial, and mother nature's timing was not to get in the way. No "Park-to-reverse" cases had been tried as far as I know in over 20 years (prior trials dated back to Ford Park-to-Reverse events in the Jimmy Carter era). The trial eventually lasted for 6 weeks, during which we presented what we believed to be insurmountable evidence of the mechanical defects in the Dodge Dakota's automatic transmission that led to Mr. Mraz's accident, and Chrysler having chosen to ignore the defect in its vehicles. At the end of the trial, the jury awarded a $4.2M in compensatory damages to the family, and then added a further $50M in punitive damages due to what it found to be "conscious disregard" of safety by Chrysler. Over the years many people (including my now 9 and 6-year-olds, who are now old enough to ask a lot of questions), have asked me details of this defect, and most importantly how to prevent future injuries. Given that unfortunately injuries and deaths from this defect continue to occur to this day, I have decided to put up this website to help raise awareness about the issue. Most of the information on this website, including footage, was used during Mraz and some of the other similar cases I have done, on vehicles from Dodge Dakotas, to Jeep Grand Cherokees, to Ram Pick-ups, to Chrysler mini-vans, to Ford Crown Victorias and F-150 pick-ups. My goal is to simply provide knowledge and share information. If you happen to own a car that is susceptible to the "inadvertent movement", you would want to be aware and pay attention to make sure your vehicle is always in park, and also to take additional precautions people do not usually do with automatics, such as always setting the emergency brake. Until all manufacturers (not just some as today) have addressed the issue, the public needs to be more knowledgeable about the lurking danger and be more vigilant about taking charge of their own safety.