Couple Files Lawsuit Against Automaker Over 2000 Accident

An accident involving a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee that left an Arlington Heights woman with no skin on her leg resulted in a auto accident lawsuit this week against DaimlerChrysler AG, the maker of the Jeep line.

The suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, accuses the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker of failing to notify the public about a known transmission problem that caused the popular SUV to slip from park into reverse.

On July 1, 2000, Jeannette Cole, 67, was driving her Grand Cherokee in the 1600 block of Courtland Drive, near her Arlington Heights home. According to the lawsuit, the SUV slipped from park to reverse after she’d stopped on the side of the road and stepped out.

As the running car rolled backward, the driver-side door struck Cole, knocking her to the ground, the suit claims. The car then ran over her right leg and stripped the skin from her hip to her foot, John G. Kelly, a Chicago attorney representing Cole, said Friday.

Robert Cole, Jeannette’s husband, said Friday the injuries have been hard on his wife, but then, citing the pending suit, referred any comment to Kelly.

The lawsuit cites about 40 other incidents nationwide in which people were injured or killed when a Jeep Grand Cherokee slipped from park to reverse.

“This problem should’ve triggered a recall, or a warning to all consumers at the very least,” Kelly said, adding that the Coles likely will seek punitive damages that could reach into the millions.

Kelly would not specify what compensatory damages Cole is seeking.

Also named as a defendant in the suit is Schaumburg Chrysler/Mazda on Golf Road, which Kelly and the Coles say is just as responsible as DaimlerChrysler.

No one contacted Friday at the suburban dealership would comment on the suit. Calls to DaimlerChrysler’s Michigan headquarters were not returned as of Friday evening.

The suit specifically charges the automaker and local dealership with negligence for making and selling a car with such a defect, and seeks to hold the defendants liable for Cole’s injuries and subsequent suffering.