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Wrongful Death Case Awarded $15 Million


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9/6/2010
Brent Adams
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Nearly six years after Jacqueline and Raechel Houck were killed in a California car accident, a jury has awarded their parents $15 million for their wrongful deaths. The sisters were riding a rented 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser on Highway 101 N on October 7, 2004 when the vehicle went over the median, struck a big rig truck, and burst into flames. Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20, died from their injuries. According to experts for the plaintiffs, Houck was unable to steer the car because of a power-steering fluid leak.

A few weeks after the horrifying car wreck, the girls' parents found out that the vehicle their daughters had rented was one of 435,000 PT Cruisers that Daimler Chrysler had recalled just a month before because the power steering hose was at risk of leaking and posed a possible car fire hazard. Enterprise records indicate that the Houck sisters' rental had not been repaired after the recall was announced. It had, however, been rented out four times and not had any problems before.

The Enterprise manager at the time has sworn that he didn't know that the vehicle had been recalled until after the girls’ deaths. He also said that it was not against company policy to rent out a recalled vehicle.

The plaintiffs' California wrongful death attorney says the car rental company had contested the civil complaint for five years; initially blaming the car crash on Raechel's driving. It wasn't until recently that Enterprise finally admitted its negligence in the sisters' deaths. The rental company tried to settle with the siblings' parents for $3 million if they would keep the details surrounding the traffic accident confidential. They refused to make a deal because they did not want Enterprise to “silence them.”



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