The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Chrysler LLC’s appeal of a $13 million punitive damage award to the family of an 8-month-old Nashville boy who died in a 2001 accident while riding in a Dodge Caravan.
“This case demonstrates that the lower courts have not heeded this court’s repeated warnings that punitive damage awards must be consistent with federal due process standards,” Chrysler argued in its Supreme Court appeal.
The boy, Joshua Flax, was in a forward-facing car seat behind the right front seat when a pickup truck crashed into the back of the minivan. The front seat snapped backward, smashing Joshua in the forehead and fracturing his skull. He died the next day.
The family said Chrysler “deceitfully covered up evidence of the deficiencies of its seat design while advertising to the public the vehicle’s safety for children.”
Chrysler, the automaker that declared bankruptcy April 30, argued unsuccessfully that the award violated constitutional limits on damages laid out in previous Supreme Court cases. The award is the largest ever upheld by the Tennessee Supreme Court, the company said.
Chrysler at one point faced a $98 million punitive award, an amount reduced during the appeals process.
The business-backed Product Liability Advisory Council trade group supported the appeal.
The case is DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Flax, 08-1010.