Chrysler to Appeal Minivan Verdict

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CHARLESTON, S.C.: The family of Sergio Jimenez II has won a whopping $262.5 million judgment against Chrysler over a 1985 accident in which their son was thrown clear and killed after the rear hatch in the family's Chrysler minivan opened on impact. But TIME's William McWhirter says that figure is likely to be drastically reduced on appeal. "The company has an eight lane interstate of appeals available," he says. "The boy was reportedly not wearing a seat belt or a child safety seat." Other factors includes questions about whether the boy's father caused the accident by running a red light, and whether the boy even flew out of the rear hatch, or, as Chrysler contends, out a side window.

Given all these questions, how did a jury decide to hand down the biggest auto liability decision in history? One reason could be that jurors were sending a message to a company that has seen at least 37 passengers killed in accidents where they were ejected from the rear liftgates of Chrysler minivans sold from 1984 through 1995.