An Alameda County, California jury recently awarded $15 million to the family of two young women who died while driving in an Enterprise rental car. Those two women, 24-year-old Raechel Houck and her younger sister, Jacqueline, were driving in a PT Cruiser that was recalled by the manufacturer for a power steering hose on the car that could leak. However, according to the family’s lawsuit, Enterprise never heeded the manufacturer’s recall and failed to complete the repair work that was necessary to ensure the safety of the PT Cruiser.
Experts hired by the family argued that Raechel lost control of the ability to steer the wheel and consequently drove into big rig in October 2004 because of leaking power steering fluid from a faulty hose. They were driving back to Santa Cruz from their father’s home in Southern California at the time of the accident.
Enterprise, the nation’s largest rental car company, and its parent corporation, contested the lawsuit for over five years. Finally, in May of this year the company admitted to negligence. In addition, a consumer lobbying group founded by Ralph Nader was apparently prompted by the $15 million lawsuit and recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the recall repair policy at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Furthermore, in response to the recent verdict, Enterprise issued a statement on Tuesday, stating: “given all we have learned, today we would ground the recalled PT Cruiser until repaired.” Overall, the manufacturer’s recall notice told owners of 453,000 PT Cruisers to contact a dealer for a service appointment because the steering fuel leaks had the potential to cause a fire.