Wrongful Death Verdict: Enterprise Rent-A-Car to pay $15M for fiery crash

06/22/2010 // WPB, FL, USA // Nicole Howley // Nicole Howley

Santa Cruz, CA—Enterprise Rent-A-Car has admitted negligence for a fiery crash in 2004, which killed two sisters who had rented a car from the auto rental company. A jury awarded the parents of the sisters $15 million dollars for the wrongful death lawsuit they filed against the company, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

Raechel and Jacqueline Houck of Santa Cruz were coming home from their mother’s house in Ventura, when the PT Cruiser Raechel had rented from Enterprise’s Capitola location, crossed the grass median on Highway 101 and slammed into a southbound semi-truck, causing it to burst into flames.

Experts hired by the parents of Raechel and Jacqueline found that the driver (Raechel) lost steering ability because of a power-steering fluid leak.

A month before the PT Cruiser was rented to Raechel, Daimler Chrysler released a safety recall notices for 435,000 PT Cruisers from 2002 through 2005. The recall was initiated because the power steering house could leak, resulting in a fire.

Enterprise contested the lawsuit for five years before they admitted negligence in May. According to a document signed by the nation’s largest rental car company, “their negligence was the sole proximate cause of the fatal injuries.”

Mark Matias, manager of Enterprise’s Northern California area, stated in a sworn declaration that Enterprise’s corporate philosophy was “you’ve got to keep booking, because you don’t know when you are going to get a car back. But then of course, you run short on vehicles, and if all you have are recalled vehicles on the lot, you rent them out. It was a given. The whole company did it.”

Matias further explained the understanding of the policy: “If a priority recall appears on the computer screen in the rental office, the employee is required to write the word ‘recall’ on a Post-it note and place it on the key in an area designated for non-rentals, but nothing prevents an employee from renting that vehicle.”

The jury awarded the damages to the plaintiff on June 9.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for California wrongful death lawyers.

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