San Pedro, CA – June 28, 2007 – Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP and the Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor announced that a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge denied two post-trial motions submitted by DaimlerChrysler Corporation. The motions were filed in response to a recent jury verdict which ordered the automaker to pay $50 million in punitive damages to Adriana Mraz and her three children for the wrongful death of San Pedro longshoreman Richard Mraz. The punitive damage award is near the maximum amount allowed based on the $5.2 million awarded by the jury in compensatory damages.
The motions submitted by DaimlerChrysler included a request for the court to overturn the jury’s verdict, order a new trial and reduce the punitive damage award to less than $1 million. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana, who presided over the month long trial earlier this year, denied DaimlerChrysler’s motions. In his ruling, Judge Recana found that the evidence presented at trial was so persuasive that “the court or jury could not have reached a different decision or verdict.”
“The trial judge is the first judicial officer to express his view on the punitive damage award,” said Charles D. Naylor, a San Pedro-based attorney and plaintiff’s co-council with expertise in maritime litigation. “We’re gratified that the judge who heard all the witness testimony felt that the punitive damages were not only justified but required.”
“I am deeply grateful to the judge for strongly affirming the jury’s message to DaimlerChrysler that it must finally fix the defect in millions of its vehicles,” said Adriana Mraz, widow of Richard Mraz. “Many people have been injured, and some killed, by the same defect. DaimlerChrysler needs to be held accountable.”
In March 2007, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded $50 million in punitive damages to the family of 38-year-old longshoreman Richard Mraz who died after being hit and run over by a run away Dodge Dakota while working at the American President Lines terminal in the Port of Los Angeles. The jury found that a “park-to-reverse” defect in the Dakota’s automatic transmission caused Mraz’s death. They also found that DaimlerChrysler acted with malice in failing to warn of the defect and adequately recalling or retrofitting the vehicle. Mraz, a San Pedro native, left behind his wife, Adrianna, a three-year-old daughter, and two teenage stepsons.
“We are confident that the jury and the judge’s decision will be upheld if challenged on appeal,” said Robert J. Nelson, of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, a San Francisco-based law firm and plaintiff’s co-council with expertise in vehicle defect litigation. “This decision by the trial judge confirms the jury’s decision which was based on the evidence we presented in court and that substantial punitive damages were warranted. DaimlerChrysler’s conscious disregard of consumer safety caused the wrongful death of Mr. Mraz.”
DaimlerChrysler could still appeal the verdict or choose to pay the $50 million punitive damages.
About Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor
Charles D. Naylor has been practicing maritime personal injury law in the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor area since 1974 and opened his own private practice, Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor in 1985. A San Pedro High School alum, Naylor received his undergraduate degree from California State University, Long Beach and his law degree from Santa Clara University. Naylor traces his interest in maritime law to his family’s involvement in commercial fishing and his own experience working as a longshoreman during his college years. For more information, visit www.naylorlaw.com.
About Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
With three offices nationwide and on the web at www.lieffcabraser.com, Lieff Cabraser is one of the largest law firms in America dedicated solely to advancing the rights of plaintiffs. For the last four years, The National Law Journal has selected Lieff Cabraser as one of the top plaintiffs’ law firms in the United States. Vehicle owners that wish to learn more about the park-to-reverse defect, and report their experience, should visit http://www.vehicle-injuries.com/park-to-reverse.htm.