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Sic ’em

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Readers may recall Robert Sanders, the Maryland man whose 7-year-old daughter, Alison, was killed by a Chrysler minivan’s passenger-side airbag during a low-speed crash back in 1995.

You may also recall that a Detroit jury last year found that the carmaker bore no responsibility for Alison’s death because she wasn’t properly belted when the accident occurred.

But the story didn’t end there. Sanders appealed, and briefs were filed last week in an attempt to prove his claim that the trial judge wrongly prohibited crucial evidence — such as tests he says prove the airbag was much more powerful than it needed to be — from being presented to the jury.

Sanders is also battling DaimlerChrysler on another front. Seems the automaker wants to collect $277,000 in legal costs it claims to have racked up fighting Sanders’ lawsuit. After a judge reduced the amount to $12,000, DC filed an appeal of its own in an attempt to recover the full amount it’s laying claim to. Paying anything at all to the company he feels bears much of the responsibility for his daughter’s death is a bitter pill for Sanders to swallow, but coming up with the six digits DC is pressing for, he says, “would bankrupt me.”

Believing that “the Sanders family has suffered enough,” a coalition of consumer groups has pleaded with company executives to show some mercy, but that call for compassion has apparently failed to touch any of the stony hearts at DC headquarters.

However, squeezing a couple hundred grand out of Sanders, or even defeating his appeal, is likely to be the least of DC’s worries. At the time of Alison’s death, Sanders was working as a corporate attorney, handling things like contract disputes. For abut four years after that, he lived on an annual income of about $22,000 as the head of a nonprofit group battling (successfully, we should add) to improve airbag warning and safety requirements.

But now he’s putting to use the volumes of technological information he’s absorbed by representing others seeking compensation for tragedies they claim were caused by poorly designed airbags.

In other words, the guy is a damned bulldog, and DaimlerChrysler can whack him with every club it can lay its hands on, but they are not going to get him to let go.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail cguyette@metrotimes.com

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