NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL
By Amanda Bronstad
The judge in the Chrysler LLC bankruptcy case has approved a damages claim of $24 million for the family of a longshoreman who was killed when his Dodge pickup truck lost control while he was working at the harbor in Long Beach, Calif.
“Ours was a very substantial case,” said Charles Naylor of the Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor in Los Angeles, the plaintiffs’ attorney. “As far as we know, it’s the largest judgment pending against them for a personal injury matter.”
The case involved Richard Mraz, 38, who was working as a longshoreman when the transmission of his Dodge pickup malfunctioned, shifting the vehicle into reverse, Naylor said. The truck knocked him down, inflicting a skull fracture. Mraz died 17 days later.
In 2007, a Los Angeles jury awarded his family more than $55 million.
Chrysler, which appealed the verdict, bonded the final judgment for $81.5 million through Safeco Insurance Co. of America. After Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this year, as the appeal was pending, payment on that judgment became uncertain.
“Although we had Safeco to look to, if the judgment was sustained whatever money Safeco used to pay us still was Chrysler assets, so that had implications in bankruptcy court because the unsecured creditors could object,” Naylor said.
Ultimately, Mraz’s family chose to settle for an amount smaller than the judgment in order to ensure payment, which is due on Oct. 5, he said.
Adam C. Rogoff, a partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel in New York who represents the committee of unsecured creditors in the Chrysler bankruptcy, did not return calls for comment. A lawyer for Chrysler, Jeffrey B. Ellman of Jones Day, and Safeco’s attorney, T. Scott Leo of Leo & Weber in Chicago, did not return calls for comment, either.