18-year-old quadriplegic sues Chrysler for injuries

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Dec. 13, 2007, 6:47am

MARSHALL -- Early on an August Saturday morning, 17-year-old Rodrigo Berriochoa was driving his father's 4-door 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 when the pickup truck suddenly went out of control. The vehicle left the road and began to roll eventually landing upright in a ditch.

Although Berriochoa says he was wearing his seatbelt, he was ejected during the rollover sequence. Berriocha was taken via air ambulance to a Houston hospital and treated for serious life-changing injuries, including spinal injuries that have left him a quadriplegic.

After recently turning 18 years old, Berriochoa filed a motor vehicle product liability suit against Daimler Chrysler on Dec. 6 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The suit states Daimler Chrysler is liable for defective design, manufacture, and marketing of the 2005 Dodge Ram. The plaintiff alleges the truck had a defective rollover protection system but had high rollover likelihood due to a narrow track width and a high center of gravity.

However, according to the Woodlands Monitor, a local news site, investigators believe Berriochoa was driving at a high rate of speed. In addition, these reports show that when the truck left the roadway, it became airborne and hit several trees before coming to a complete stop.

The plaintiff also argues that the truck was defective due to a lack of electronic stability control (ESC). He argues that the mandatory federal safety standards regarding rollover prevention and protection are inadequate to protect the public from these types of injuries.

"For example, federal standards fail to require manufacturers to install electronic stability control on any vehicles until the year 2012 although ESC was first introduced successfully in Mercedes in Europe in the year 1995," the complaint points out.

Within the court documents, Berriochoa also argues that the Dodge Ram was not crashworthy at the time of the accident as demonstrated through the high roof crush, the crushed in driver's door, cracked driver's window and "faulty driver's restraint system."

The plaintiff believes alternative designs could have reduced the risk of his injuries and those designs were economically and technologically feasible at the time of the truck's manufacture.

The complaint argues Chrysler was negligent through failing to warn that the truck was more likely to rollover and was not as crashworthy as passenger cars. Therefore, the plaintiff states Chrysler should provide strong danger warnings and careful driving instructions for when the truck is driven on the roadway.

The young man is seeking damages for medical expenses, physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, lost earnings, and lost earning capacity.

The plaintiff is requesting a trial by jury and is represented by Dallas attorney B. Thomas McElroy.

Judge T. John Ward will preside over the case.

Case No. 2:07cv00532

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