Dodge Park to Reverse Lawsuit – Sad Story

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An Arvada, Colorado man is suing Chrysler over a “park to reverse” issue that he says contributed to the death of his wife. This is just a sad story all around.

Dodge Park to Reverse Lawsuit - Sad Story

2003 Dodge 2500 trucks have an known “park to reverse” flaw. It is the subject of a new lawsuit.

Gil Sanders says that his 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 was negligent in causing the death of his wife, according to a Denver Post story.

Gil Sanders stands next to his 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup. He wants to smash it, but needs it for evidence. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Gil Sanders stands next to his 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup. He wants to smash it, but needs it for evidence. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

He says the truck has a flaw in the transmission that causes the vehicle to “self-shift into a powered reverse.” This flaw, Sanders claims, caused the gruesome death of his wife, 54-year-old Karen “Kari” Sanders.

The Denver Post says:

The suit alleges that on March 13, Kari Sanders started the V8 engine of their Dodge Ram, which was parked in the two-car garage at their home outside of Arvada.

Kari Sanders exited the vehicle — most likely to run water in a small plastic swimming pool for a family of pet ducks — and left the driver’s front door open and walked to the rear of the truck.

Without warning, the Dodge Ram self-shifted into powered reverse and began moving backward, according to the lawsuit.

The open driver’s door of the moving pickup pinned Kari Sanders against the steel rails of the garage door.

When Kari Sanders was found hours later by her daughter, she was dead. The force of the still-running truck held her body in a vertical position against the garage door frame, and the pickup door fractured her ribs.

The Jefferson County coroner declared she died of “positional asphyxiation,” the suit said.

“I cannot imagine the pain she went through,” said Gil Sanders. “I can’t imagine finding her like that.”

The park-to-reverse defect, also known as a “false park,” is an apparent flaw in the transmission. In doing a quick Google search, it seems the issue is quite widespread and the NHTSA opened an investigation into Dodge heavy duty trucks with this transmission issue. That investigation lead to a 2006 recall of 250,000 2003-2005 model  year, diesel and V10 heavy duty trucks. Dodge installed a “out-of-park” alarm as part of that recall. When the vehicle slipped into this “false park” (a unsustainable gearing spot in the transmission), the truck is supposed to alert the owner by having the horn honk and lights flash. Sadly, the 2003 Ram 2500 wasn’t part of that recall.

Since that recall, there have been quite few lawsuits with large awards to the plaintiffs including a L.A. dock worker who was awarded $55.2 million, including $50 million in punitive damages.

Chrysler was quoted as saying:

“This incident was caused by the inattentiveness on the part of Mrs. Sanders, who exited the vehicle while it was in reverse gear, and not by any defect in the 2003 Dodge Ram,” Palese said in an e-mail. “Indeed, the 2003 Dodge Ram meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards and has an excellent safety record.”

Sanders says that Chrysler knew it was flawed and ignored the problem.

“This is a question of ethics,” Gil Sanders said in the Denver Post interview. “They should be held accountable all the way down the line.”

Editor’s note: This is certainly a sad story and while it may seem we are continually attacking Chrysler products on this site, this story is more about awareness and sharing information than an attack. We certainly hope the best for Mr. Sanders.

Filed Under: Auto News

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  1. Breathing Borla says:

    I think stuff like this and the very poor reputation of Chrysler slush-boxes is why they finally gave up and just bought a reputable high performance trans

    ZF 8 for the LD and Aisan for the HD

    I know I wouldn’t have bought this truck without it (ZF).

  2. Mickey says:

    Sad story. Sad it wasn’t part of the recall. Dodge is in a pickle. Doesn’t say how much Gil is suing for. For the LA worker getting 55.2 million is ridiculous. Same as the family that won a law suit in a 20 year old Malibu station wagon that was hit in the rear and exploded. GM lost that law suit to a tune of 2 billion $$. Sorry but that’s ridiculous. There is a limit as far as I’m concerned.

  3. T says:

    Add SLANDER to the suit.

    That PR Rep…should be fired for that heartless and poorly thought-out statement. That official statement would never pass the “newspaper test”, yet alone any of the others.

    May she rest in peace.

  4. LJC says:

    Yes, it is sad that someone died, but there are some unanswered questions.

    Started his truck in a garage and left it running? Can you say Carbon Monoxide?

    Left the vehicle door open for a running vehicle? Why?

    She was found a couple of hours later? This means he had the intention of letting his truck run for a couple of hours, in his garage, with the vehicle door open? Can you say Carbon Monoxide?

    How long does it take to fill a small plastic pool with water from a garden hose? About 10 minutes.

    It couldn’t have been that cold outside (less than 32 degrees) if he was filling a pool with water; it would freeze a short time later (ducklings can’t paddle in ice covered water); cold temps are a reason to leave a vehicle running, but for a couple of hours?

    Yes, Dodge should have recalled more vehicles, but the events that surround the time of death are peculiar…

  5. Randy says:

    It’s all politics. It is very sad that the Sanders family has suffered so greatly because of it.

  6. LJC says:

    Nope, I’m not an attorney. I did consider IP law at one point though.

  7. toyrulz says:

    @LJC

    My take is more she hopped in truck to go, garage door is open started truck and realized she forgot to top up water for ducks… just takes a minute so hopped out with truck still running and left door open for same reason (I’ve see ladies do this getting gas at self serve). She seems to have only made a few steps before truck caught and pinned her.

    I think the big question is was the truck indicating P or R. I too saw a guy back up to a gas pump at self serve, hop out to get gas and mowed himself down as he was in reverse – he was scraped and bruised bit otherwise OK.

    I feel so much for that poor family and regardless of fault, it would be good PR for RAM to make a difference in their lives. Should fault be proved… RAM will of course need to pay more.

    • LJC says:

      @toyrulz: Good points.
      After further thought, I was wrong.
      The whole duck thing has nothing to do with this.
      I agree, the position of the gear shifter is the key to this case. If in ‘P’, then Dodge will have to pay.

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