Detroit Bureau on Twitter

Rental Car Act Named for Two Sisters Killed in Crash Passes Senate

House delays vote until after recess.

by on Jul.31, 2015

The Houck sisters were killed instantly when their vehicle spun out of control and hit a truck head-on.

With Washington lawmakers set to go home for their summer recess, family and friends of two sisters killed in a 2004 rental car crash received at least one bit of good news.

The Senate passed a 6-year highway bill on Thursday that includes the terms of the long-delayed Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act. The House won’t deal with the measure until lawmakers return to the capital in September. But if they also approve the measure it would ensure that rental car companies can no longer keep cars in operation that are subject to recall until the necessary fixes are made.

The Complete Story!

The two California sisters were killed in a crash of a Chrysler PT Cruiser they’d gotten from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Initially, the company attempted to blame 24-year-old Raechel, who was driving, going so far as to say she might have been “suicidal or on drugs.” But a jury later disagreed,

In a 2010 verdict, a jury issued a $15 million verdict against Enterprise, concluding the company had failed to make fixes after learning of a Cruiser recall ordered because of a defect that could cause a driver to lose steering control.

A turning point in the case came when Mark Matias, who had served as an Enterprise area manager in San Francisco, near where the accident occurred, acknowledged in court that, “When demand called, we rented out recalled vehicles, it happened, I won’t lie.”

(“No way” nation should tolerate 33k annual highway deaths, says NHTSA chief.Click Here for more.)

The Safe Rental Car Act has been facing Congress since first being introduced in 2012 and would make it illegal for rental car companies to engage in what one dubbed “rental car roulette.” Vehicles would have to be immediately grounded when a relevant recall was issued, noted the grassroots group, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

“Still more steps to go before we can declare victory, but this is a big deal getting the bill out of the Republican Senate,” says CARS President Rosemary Shahan.

Shortly after the 2010 jury verdict was rendered, Enterprise said it would voluntarily follow the policies now included in the bill named after the Houck sisters. Most of the other major rental companies, such as Hertz and Avis, have followed suit. But a few larger companies and some smaller ones have not signed on voluntarily, according to surveys by CARS and other safety groups.

Chrysler, which manufactured the PT Cruiser involved in the Houck crash – and which was just hit with record fines for its poor handling of recent recalls – opposed the Safe Rental Car Act. But Honda recently joined General Motors, the first manufacturer to support the measure.

(Hammered by biggest recall fine ever, Fiat Chrysler promises to fix its safety system. Click Here for more.)

Proponents were hoping the Senate would go even further at a time when U.S. automotive recalls have been running at record levels. But the bill that passed in the waning hours before the summer recess notably excluded language that also would have banned car dealers from selling used vehicles subject to recall unless they were first repaired.

It’s unclear how House lawmakers will respond when they return to Washington, but the Safe Rental Act is part of a broader Transportation Bill considered one of the top Congressional priorities considering the money it will appropriate is needed to keep the nation’s highways and mass transit systems moving. A short-term, stop-gap bill will tide things up over until the end of the recess.

(Click Here for more about the recall of 1.4 million Jeeps to fix a hacking problem.)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “Rental Car Act Named for Two Sisters Killed in Crash Passes Senate”

  1. Jorge says:

    This should be a no brainer.

    I would certainly think depending on what the possible defect was in the PT Cruiser, that forensic investigators could determine if the PT Cruiser actually failed or if it was driver error that caused the accident. Just because there is a recall for a possible defect does not mean the defect caused this particular accident.

    In the U.S. we have paid liars that reward irresponsible people by making them instant millionaires for irrational and dangerous behavior. The “Stella Awards” are given out each year in honor of a woman who placed a hot cup of coffee between her legs and got burned while the vehicle was traveling down the road and coffee spilled on her. A paid liar got her over a million dollars by suing McDonald’s and duping a jury into believing there is such a thing as “too hot coffee”. If you do your homework you’ll find there is no such thing as water boils at 212 F and the desired temp for ideal coffee is ~185 F.

    Regardless of the temp of the coffee however, only an idiot would place a cup of hot coffee between their legs in a moving vehicle. Instead of admonishing the woman for her stupidity, the U.S. judicial system made her a millionaire because the paid liars have corrupted the judicial system and can easily dupe the technically challenged people on most juries.

    Without knowing all the facts in this case there is no way to know if the paid liars duped another jury or if the PT Cruiser actually failed causing loss of control. If the driver had drugs in her system that certainly could have also been a contributing factor.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Jorge, careful with assumptions based on what “paid liars,” as you call them, tell you.

      Are you familiar with the full story of that McDonalds case? Turns out that prior to taking on Starbucks with more tasty coffee, Mickey D’s was all about throughput — the same reason, critics contend, its burgers are so mediocre. As a result, it used a high-pressure system that actually superheated the water. Remember, the boiling point depends on pressure, hence it is much lower in, say, Denver. You actually can superheat it coming out of the machine. And here’s a telling point: spill coffee from a conventional pot or machine on your hands or even crotch and you might get a 1st, perhaps even a 2nd degree burn. The woman in the lawsuit had 3rd degree burns, something you simply shouldn’t expect even if you do something like holding a cup in your lap. Okay, maybe you still say, “shame on her.” BUT…

      In trial, it came out McDonalds had received a filing cabinet full of complaints about the high temp of its coffee. People were burning their mouths, their hands, etc., even when holding and drinking the brew more safely. AND…even McD’s franchisees were complaining, demanding the company allow them to tweak the coffee brewing machines supplied — and whose use was regulated — by the corp. office. Remember, that company’s franchise agreement strictly controls every detail of a store’s operation, down to the temp of the grille and coffeemaker. Separately, internal McDonald’s documents surfaced in which the company specifically said that customer health and safety be damned in the name of throughput, costs and profits.

      The huge award was largely punitive and a counter to the costs-over-customers policy. Oh, and as almost always happens, the award was sharply reduced on appeal.

      As to the Houck case, the evidence eventually supported the fact that the suspension failed, sending the women spinning out of control. There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use. Ironically, Enterprise turned down a $3 mil settlement offer that would have kept details secret. It later apologized and switched positions unilaterally on renting recalled vehicles.

      The facts don’t always support the politically expedient good tale, Jorge.

      Paul E.

      • Dave says:

        Paul, thanks for the McD info, I’ve never heard any of it before.

        • Jorge says:

          Paul got duped just like the jury and many other people who didn’t use the brain they were given and understand that the woman had an obligation to stow the coffee properly before the vehicle proceeded down the road. Paid liars become millionaires by diverting responsibility to others. If you don’t keep your eye on the ball you too can be duped. It happens everyday.

          If you don’t believe the woman has a responsibility to use good judgment when handling hot coffee, leave a loaded handgun in your house with children around and see if you get arrested when one of the children fires the gun. This too sadly happens every week because people willingly abdicate their responsibilities and that is when someone gets hurt.

          Not to worry, we are paying for the McD’s fraud and millionaire status of the woman along with the other injustices that paid liars create everyday. It’s a disgrace how the criminals have corrupted the U.S. judicial system for profit. The expression “Only in America” certainly applies as other countries refuse to even hear these bogus product liability lawsuits.

      • Jorge says:

        Paul, you like many people can be duped by information meant to deceive you. It shows in your post above as you completely missed the critically important point that the plaintiff has the personal responsibility to NOT pour/splash the hot coffee on herself. McD’s didn’t pour the coffee on her, she poured/splashed it on herself through negligence and ignorance. It’s NOT McD’s responsibility to teach people NOT to place hot liquids between their legs when in a moving vehicle or any time for that mater. It’s called personal responsibility except when someone can become a millionaire through fraud and manipulation of the U.S. judicial system.

        BTW – Super heated water does not stay superheated once the pressure is released. When filling the coffee cup the coffee is exposed to atmospheric pressure meaning the fluid temp drops rapidly. In reality is makes ZERO difference if the coffee was 165 F or 212 F a FOOL would still get burned by pouring/splashing ANY hot coffee/liquid on themselves.

        The point that you like many other people miss is that IRRESPONSIBILE BEHAVIOR is what caused this accident. NO ONE WITH A CLUE places a hot cup of coffee between their legs in a moving vehicle for the very obvious reason that there is a high probability of getting burned. Placing a hot cup of coffee between your legs is IRRATIONAL and IRRESPONSIBLE behavior. The side show antics by the paid liars to convince you and other gullible people that McD’s is at fault is just smoke and mirrors and you fell for it.

        In any other country but the U.S. the woman would never have had her case make it to court as the judicial system refuses to accept these fraudulent cases brought by siren chasers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you don’t pour a hot fluid on your body and then sue someone for your ignorance – except in the U.S. where the paid liars have destroyed the judicial system – FOR HUGE FINANCIAL GAIN.

        The fact is the paid liars want to blame someone else for the irresponsible behavior of their clients. That is precisely how the paid liars reap fortunes and reward irresponsible behavior while making ignorant people millionaires. Many other countries toss these bogus cases and chastise any unscrupulous lawyers who try to bring them.

        The bottom line is NO responsible person places a cup of hot liquid between their legs in a vehicle driving down the road and becomes a millionaire for their personal negligence – except in the U.S.

        So unfortunate YOU also got duped in the McD’s hot coffee case because you focused on the side show, i.e. “the coffee was too hot” instead of focusing on the personal responsibility of the woman who purchased the coffee and placed it between her legs. To make the point crystal clear… If I bought a cup of McD’s hot coffee and I tossed it in someone’s fact and they got severely burned, would it be my fault or McD’s fault? McD’s didn’t toss the cup of coffee, I did. The same applies in Stella’s case. She placed the hot liquid between her legs and she got burned due to her irresponsible behavior. McD’s didn’t place the coffee between her legs. What you and most people fail to comprehend is Stella’s negligence is precisely what caused the accident, not the temp of the hot liquid and not McD’s.

        Stella’s windfall profit from her irresponsible behavior is precisely why a woman recently claimed she bought a cup of coffee at a McD’s drive through and then she claimed that they or she spilled it on her, burning her arm. It was just as fraudulent as Stella’s case but she staged the event and didn’t report it for a week or so. Thus it was obviously a scam just like Stella’s case.

        Now you know how paid liars reap fortunes by duping you and other people on a jury. You completely missed the fundamental issue of personal responsibility in this case due to the smokescreen the paid liars used. It’s blatantly obvious from your post above. And you actually still believe today that McD’s was at fault for Stella’s negligence when Stella and only Stella is responsible for her actions, not McD’s. The facts in Stella’s case show your beliefs and conclusions to be incorrect but due to the fact that you and the jury focused on the circus act, you too got duped. The paid liars are laughing all the way to the bank.

        As I said in the Houck case without knowing ALL of the facts, it’s hard to tell if this is another travesty of justice or a legitimate case of a defect causing the accident. Just because someone claims the suspension broke, does not mean it broke from a defect in a horrendous crash like this. That’s where expert forensic crash investigators can usually but not always determine what failed first causing the accident.

        • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

          Jorge,

          Your understanding of the law is incorrect. A person has a reasonable expectation of what a product is…or contains, ie the coffee in a cup served by McDonalds. At her age she had clearly no reason to suspect that the temperature would be hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns. So, while she might have been faulted for a risky move, ie holding the coffee in her lap, she had a reasonable expectation that, at worst, she might get a little scalded if the liquid spilled. The fact that the company was advised of, and indeed, knew, that it was producing and selling coffee at a temperature that was both above a reasonable level of expectation AND that it also willing chose to create risk for a financial benefit is what this case hinged on.

          Paul E.

          • Jorge says:

            Paul, you got duped just like the jury and many other people who don’t use the brain they were given.

            There is one and only one question a person needs to ask themselves in this case. If you answer this question correctly then you will have an epiphany and realize how badly you were duped. You will also come to understand that McD’s played NO PART in the woman’s injuries and that the ignorance perpetuated regarding the temp of the coffee, McD’s. supposedly desire to expedite processing, etc., etc. has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE INJURIES in this case. That is just the scam that the paid liars use to dupe the gullible.

            Here is the fundamental question you need to answer with a YES or NO response. The question is:

            “Would this woman have experienced the injuries to her legs had she NOT placed the hot liquid between her legs?”

            The answer is clearly: “NO”

            It was her personal responsibility to properly stow the coffee, not McD’s responsibility to teach her how to transport a hot liquid that she KNEW WAS HOT before placing it between her legs. Stella knew the coffee was hot and she was clearly negligent in placing it between her legs. It does NOT matter how hot the coffee was it’s irresponsible and dangerous to place a hot liquid between your legs in a moving vehicle – as Stella confirmed.

            As I stated above any DAMN FOOL would get burned with 165F or 212 F temp fluid if you place it between your legs and it spills. The onus is on the woman to properly stow the coffee in a moving vehicle.

            The fact that you and the jury were so easily duped by the paid liars illustrates precisely how the U.S. judicial system has been corrupted for profit. Other countries with a sane judicial systems would refuse to even hear this type of case and they would reprimand the woman for her irresponsible and dangerous behavior that caused her own injuries. In America paid liars reward people for irresponsible and dangerous behavior as Stella proved. This is why they are called paid liars.

            The bottom line is that YOU and those on the jury bought into the circus act the paid liars presented and ignored the woman’s personal responsibility to safely stow the coffee. It does not matter what the coffee temp was if Stella had properly stowed the coffee in a moving vehicle she would not have suffered her injuries. There is no decree anywhere that states using your legs as a cup holder for a hot beverage is acceptable. Stella proved it’s unacceptable by her injuries and for that she became an instant millionaire via corrupt paid liars. You, I and every other consumer PAYS for the fraud perpetuated by paid liars in product liability cases. Rewarding inappropriate and dangerous behavior is totally unacceptable.

            BTW, you conveniently avoided my example above of me buying a cup of hot McD’s coffee and tossing it into someone’s face and injuring them. You avoided this because it substantiates that Stella’s irresponsible and dangerous behavior would be the same as my irresponsible and dangerous behavior of tossing the hot coffee in someone’s face and injuring them. By now you should understand that YOU got duped. If not then you’re in serious denial.

            This case hinged on the jury being gullible, not on the law and personal responsibility. Once again we see a terrible injustice perpetuated by paid liars.