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Houston Family Settles Lawsuit Over Deadly, Faulty Seat Belts

Apr 8, 2004 |

A Houston-area family has settled its lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler in the deaths of two women ejected from a minivan in a crash that occurred in 2002 as the family returned home from vacation.

Martin Mendoza filed the suit against the automaker March 13, 2003 , claiming faulty seat belts were to blame for the deaths of his wife and sister-in-law. The suit was settled for an undisclosed sum.

Seven members of the extended Mendoza family were returning Sunday, Dec. 29, 2002, to their homes in Houston from a Christmas visit to Mexico when their 1996 Chrysler Town & Country minivan struck a culvert, flipped end-to-nose and then rolled. The accident occurred on U.S. Highway 59, just west of Beeville, Texas.

In the vehicle were Martin Mendoza, 37, the driver, his wife, Denise, 34, and their children Daniel, 15, and Amy, 8; also Martin's brother, Jose, 40, his wife, Maria, 38, and their son, Hector, 16.

All had their seat belts buckled. However, all the belts except that of Jose, in the front passenger seat, unlatched. Martin was hurled into the windshield and fell between the two front seats. Denise and Maria, who were in the middle captain's chairs, and all three children, who were riding in the rear seat, were ejected from the vehicle.

Denise died instantly. Maria was fatally injured, and died on January 8, 2003. All three children were seriously injured. Amy received numerous fractures. Hector remains paralyzed.

The families filed a lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler in the 157th Judicial District, Harris County (Houston) Texas. The lawsuit accused DaimlerChrysler of negligence in the manufacture of the defective Gen3 seatbelt.

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