The Hartman CaseCase Summary
Donna Hartman, et al. vs. DaimlerChrysler, Inc., et al.
On Dec. 28, 1995, Arthur Hartman, 50, drove his brand new 1996 Dodge Cirrus to Kansas City International airport to pick up his 28-year-old daughter Bobbi Jo, an Army recruiter. They were on their way home to Excelsior Springs, a small town just north of Kansas City, when they stopped at a convenience store. Bobbi Jo clearly recalled reminding her father to buckle up, and how her father latched his seat belt before driving away from the store.
A few minutes later, the Hartmans were traveling north on two-lane US. 69 when a southbound Ford Crown Victoria pulled suddenly into their lane on a head-on course. The driver of the Ford, 16-year-old Glen O'Dell, slammed on his breaks and skidded sideways, colliding with the Hartman's Cirrus. O'Dell, his girlfriend Carol Wheaton, and Bobbi Jo all survived the collision with minor or no injuries.
But Arthur Hartman did not. In a lawsuit filed Dec.16, 2000 in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, MO., in Kansas City, Mr. Hartman's family claims Mr. Hartman's seat belt released during the collision, allowing him to be hurled around the cabin and directly into the path of the passenger side airbag. The airbag caught the side of his chest, crushing his right carotid artery. Hartman, who owned and operated his own business unloading railway cars, suffered an immediate stroke. He is now severely brain damaged and living in adult day care.
The buckle installed in the 1996 Cirrus is the Autoliv. The Autoliv, like the Gen3 buckle, does not pass the 30mm ball test. The Gen3 buckle is implicated in the death of others for accidentally unlatching during wrecks, in other lawsuits against Chrysler. The ball test is used by other automobile companies to reduce the risk of accidental release. The Gen3 and Autoliv buckles used by Chrysler fail the 30mm ball test.
The Hartman family is represented by Randy Rhodes, of the firm Douthit, Frets Rouse and Gentile, of Kansas City. Rhodes can be reached at 816-941-7600.