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Chrysler’s new stance revives product liability claims

Heather Cole//August 31, 2009

Chrysler’s new stance revives product liability claims

Heather Cole//August 31, 2009

Chrysler’s acceptance of responsibility for claims has put the bloom back on some product liability cases.

The auto manufacturer has agreed to accept product liability claims on vehicles made by its predecessor company before June 10, 2009, and involved in accidents after that date. The carmaker announced the action on a blog on its Web site Friday, saying a letter had been sent to members of Congress.

Chrysler had shed its liability for past product liability claims when it emerged from its month-long bankruptcy as Fiat-controlled Chrysler Group in June.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys and state attorneys general had pushed for the carmaker to take on responsibility for claims, said Bob Langdon, partner with Lexington plaintiffs’ firm Langdon & Emison. (Missouri Lawyers Weekly subscribers can click here to read a related story “Law firms hurt by auto bankruptcies”)

General Motors, which emerged from bankruptcy in July, had agreed to assume liability for future accidents involving any GM vehicle.

Before the carmakers agreed to take responsibility for claims, plaintiffs’ law firms such as Langdon & Emison were set to cope by turning down potential cases, focusing more on lawsuits against other automakers and continuing some litigation with the remaining defendants: dealers and parts manufacturers.

Only claims against Chrysler dealers and component part suppliers are pending, said Rod Loomer, a partner with Springfield firm Turner, Reid, Duncan, Loomer & Patton. Loomer has represented Ford and GM.

But Loomer predicted Chrysler would take over the defense of cases that dealerships’ insurers had been handling, as GM has done. GM has shipped some of the cases from the insurers’ attorneys to Loomer’s firm.

“There will be an increase in two things,” Loomer said. “The number of cases plaintiffs’ [attorneys] will be willing to accept, and the number defense firms get.”

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