Lawrence Grassini: Rental Car Companies Pledge to Correct Recall Defects to their Vehicles Before Renting them to the Public
Inner Circle member Larry Grassini of Woodland Hills, California represented the parents of two beautiful daughters, Raechel (24) and Jackie (20), who had been killed in a head on collision with a tractor trailer after the car Raechel was driving lost control and went across the median on a freeway. The girls had rented the car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and were returning home to Northern California after a visit with their parents. When they rented the car, a 2004 Chrysler PTCruiser, they were told that they were being given a free upgrade.
Larry Grassinis investigation proved that this PTCruiser was the subject of a safety recall from Chrysler because a power steering hose would rub against the engine and spray power steering fluid on the catalytic converter leading to underhood fires, which is exactly what happened to Raechel and Jackie and led to their deaths. Discovery further proved that Enterprise had received the recall notice one month before they rented the car to the girls and they did not have a standard policy regarding renting vehicles subject to recalls.
Raechel and Jackies parents did not file the wrongful death cases for their kids' deaths for the money. They filed it and persevered through some very tough years in order to try to bring Enterprise's actions to the attention of the public and perhaps force a change so that no other parent would have to get that terrible phone call. Although they were offered a substantial confidential settlement to remain quiet about the facts of the case, the parents remained steadfast in their desire to get this information out to the public and proceeded to trial. Their philosophy was that all the money in the world couldn't make up for the risk this could happen again to somebody else's children. The parents believed that if they remained true to their principles, that something good would come from these unnecessary deaths.
After deliberating two hours, the jury returned a $15 million verdict which has served to get the attention of all rental car companies across the nation. The public outrage that followed the trial caused the NHTSB to launch an investigation into how all rental companies handle recalls. The mother of the girls spearheaded an attempt to force the rental companies to standardize their procedures and the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2012 (HR 6094) was introduced in Congresswith a simple premise: Require rental car companies to conduct recall repairs before they can rent or sell a car, and if the car is already in use when the recall notice is received, the company would be required to notify the consumer. Big business continues to fight the bill but a pledge was received from all the major rental companies that they will not rent a recalled vehicle until it is fixed. There has recently been some continuing coverage documenting the pledge and seeking more public support for this bill. (see belowJuly 29, 2014 USA Today article How safe is your rental car?) Even if the bill continues to flounder in Congress, the Houck trial (as opposed to a confidential settlement) has raised the publics awareness of this terrible hole in consumer safety and the pledge from the Rental Car Companies is far better than their former pledge to rent every car on the lot, whether recalled or not.
Update: In December, 2015, President Obama signed into law (effective June 1 2016) the Raechel and Jackie Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015, making it illegal for a rental car company to rent a vehicle that is subject to a safety recall.