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California jury awards family $15 million for rental car death claim

Posted on Jul 14, 2010

A national car rental company is being held responsible for the car crash of two young women.
Enterprise rent-a-car admitted to renting out recalled vehicles during a California court case involving the deaths of two Bay Area women. The fatal car accident occurred in October 2004. Twenty-four-year-old, Rachel Houck and her 20-year old sister, Jaquie Houck, rented a Chrysler PT cruiser for a trip to Ventura to visit their parents. One month earlier, a recall notice was sent to Enterprise letting the rental company know that the engine in the vehicle could catch on fire from a possible leak in the vehicle’s power steering. However, the company did not take the vehicle for the required fix and PT Cruiser had been rented out three times in the month since the company received the recall notice. The sisters were the fourth customers to rent the unrepaired vehicle.
As the women were driving on California’s Highway 101, the PT Cruiser caught on fire and hit an on-coming tractor-trailer. The women died instantly.
Enterprise spent five years claiming that the driver of the recalled vehicle was suicidal and caused the accident. Two weeks before the case came to trial, Enterprise admitted negligence. An Alameda County jury awarded the family $15 million for their wrongful death claim.
Enterprise has no company-wide policy preventing recalled cars from being rented to unsuspecting customers.

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