N.J. Court: Jury Should Spread Damage Award Beyond Car Maker

September 28, 2005

A New Jersey appeals court in Trenton is giving DaimlerChrysler the chance to reduce the amount of money it must pay the family of a woman who was killed when another vehicle’s tire crushed the roof of a minivan.

A three-judge panel ruled that a trial jury should consider whether other parties also should be responsible for some of the $15.8 million in damages DaimlerChrysler AG must pay for the 1998 death of Annette Boryszewski on Interstate 80 in East Orange.

Damages include $800,000 for wrongful death and $5 million for emotional distress for each of Boryszewski’s three children, who were in the minivan during the accident.

Boryszewski died when a tire from a Jeep Wrangler crashed into the windshield of the 1998 Plymouth Voyager she was driving, shattering the windshield and crushing the minivan’s roof into her head.

In 2001, a jury in state Superior Court in Jersey City found DaimlerChrysler liable, finding the Voyager’s windshield header wasn’t designed to handle such an impact safely.

That jury ordered DaimlerChrysler to pay $20 million in damages. A second jury reconsidered that amount and reduced it, but the appeals court this week reinstated much of the original award.

The appeals panel also ruled that a trial jury should decide whether to spread damages among DaimlerChrysler and other parties that previously settled with Boryszewski’s family.

An attorney for DaimlerChrysler did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Those who have settled include the Jeep Wrangler’s driver, an automobile mechanic accused of not properly tightening the lug nuts on the Jeep’s tires, the owners of the service station where the tires were rotated, and Exxon Mobil Corp.

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