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Apartment Owner, Car Manufacturer Sued for Father’s Drowning Death

The family of a 24-year-old father is suing for his death saving his 3-year-old daughter’s life by jumping into a pond – despite the fact he could not swim – after the car unexpectedly rolled away with the child inside. The vehicle had reportedly been recalled by the manufacturer for a malfunction that could cause it to unexpectedly shift gears and roll away. Additionally, the parking lot of the apartment complex where the vehicle had been parked before it unexpectedly began rolling away had no barriers between it and the pond, despite a sharp downward slope.

His family is pursuing damages against the manufacturer of the car for product liability and against the owner of the apartment complex for premises liability.

A review at several CarMax Inc. locations published late last year found that of the 1,700 vehicles reviewed, 1 in 4 had unrepaired safety recalls, ranging from air bag deflaters linked to deadly malfunctions to fire risks and other hazards that have been linked to serious injuries and deaths. Some vehicles had numerous safety recalls. Selling used cars with unrepaired safety recalls is not technically banned under federal law, though it is condemned by consumer and auto safety advocates who argue it puts unsuspecting motorists and passengers at risk. It is unlawful to sell new cars with unremedied safety recalls. CarMax, which sells used vehicles at 175 locations in 39 states, responded to the report indicating customers sign a release form indicating they have received NHTSA recall information prior to the sale. 

In this wrongful death case, according to local news reports, the vehicle in question was a 2008 Pontiac G6. The VIN numer on the vehicle revealed there was an unfixed recall for a defect that might cause the vehicle to roll away, even if the shifter was in park. Decedent was standing next to the vehicle, speaking to a friend, when the child reportedly accidentally hit the gear lever, putting the vehicle in reverse, while climbing over the seats inside. The vehicle rolled into the pound while the girl was still inside. Her father was frantic to save her. Neither man at the scene knew how to swim, but both jumped in the water anyway to save her.

The father yelled at his daughter to get in the back seat, reached the car before it disappeared under water, grabbed her from the vehicle and pushed her out. Another man nearby – who also could not swim – jumped in to rescue the girl and was able to bring her to the shore. That man tried to return to rescue the father, but he was unable to make it to the vehicle. The girl was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition, though she was expected to survive.

The vehicle was later found 50 feet from the shore, 25 feet below the surface.

The body of water was a retention pond, designed to prevent flooding and collect storm water.

The family’s wrongful death attorney said his clients had no idea the car had an outstanding recall, and that they had purchased it used. They accuse General Motors of manufacturing a dangerous and defective product.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Wrongful death lawsuit filed in pond drowning death of Indianapolis father, May 4, 2018, By Kara Kenney, RTV-6

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Widow in Fatal Railroad Crossing Crash Wins $19M Damage Award, June 6, 2018, Broward Car Accident Wrongful Death Lawyer Blog

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