Roberto Martinez was washing Lori Hamby’s used 1991 Dodge Caravan while Hamby’s two-year-old daughter, Mary Madison Hamby Garcia, was playing inside of the vehicle by herself. The van was parked on top of a long driveway and the emergency brakes off. The key in the ignition in the “on” position so he could play the radio; the doors were open so he could vacuum the vehicle. Martinez was retrieving Windex fifteen feet away when Hamby apparently dislodged the automatic transmission from park. With the ignition key-lock the disabled, the vehicle hurtled down the driveway, killing Hamby when it struck a tree, jarring her from the vehicle, and pinning her beneath the tire, where she died of asphyxiation compression.
This is, an Atlanta jury held, 51% Chrysler’s fault. The theory on which the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff is on the theory that Chrysler failed to adequately warn of the risk of leaving children unattended in vehicles with the key in the ignition—even though Hamby’s mother, Lori Hamby, only “glanced” through the owner’s manual, which did warn against it. Madison Hamby, who was dead on the scene, was awarded $2.25 million for pain and suffering on top of the $2.25 million for wrongful death. The jury ruled for Chrysler on the funeral expenses, however. Chrysler is appealing. (Greg Land, “DaimlerChrysler to Appeal $3.4M Awarded in Minivan Accident”, Fulton County Daily Report, Mar. 6 (via Prince); DeeAnn Durbin, “DaimlerChrysler ordered to pay family in minivan lawsuit”, AP/Detroit News, Mar. 3; Hamby v. DaimlerChrysler, No. 1:03CV:0937-CAP (N.D. Ga.)).