15-Passenger Van Case Death Settled Out of Court; Attorney Urges Commercial License for All Drivers

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The law firm of Garcia and Karam has reached an out of court settlement in the death of a young woman killed in a 15-passenger van crash in November, 2009, in Oregon. Attorney Rick Garcia has urged the government to require commercial licensing of all 15-passenger van drivers to reduce the crash risks of this dangerous vehicle.

“These vans are highly susceptible to crash and rollover, especially when they are overloaded."

The law firm of Garcia and Karam has reached an out of court settlement in the death of a young woman killed in a 15-passenger van crash in November 2009, in Oregon, the law firm has announced.

According to Oregon State Police, Taune Nicole Pepper, 25, was killed when the 2002 Ford van she was traveling skidded out of control on black ice and rolled over near Baker City, OR. Another person was killed and 14 others were also injured in the crash.

The van, operated by New Life Worship Center at Federal Height, CO, was carrying teens and young adults to Portland to help staff a conference to raise money for a Bible School mentoring program, police said. Thirteen of the van’s 16 occupants were ejected in the crash, police said.

“These vans are highly susceptible to crash and rollover, especially when they are overloaded,” noted attorney Rick Garcia. “At the very least, the government should require 15-passenger van drivers to possess a commercial driver’s license. Not only would drivers be trained in how to handle these vehicles, which do not react in emergency situations like regular passenger cars, but they would be educated about other van-specific safety issues.”

Garcia-Karam represented the young woman’s mother in mediation with the church and its Bible School, Rocky Mountains Masters Commission.

The latest government warning Oct. 14, 2010, came in the wake of 15-passenger van rollovers in New York and Georgia that claimed 10 lives. Both were church operated and at or over the passenger limit.

Since 2001, NHTSA has issued a steady stream of warnings about the instability of these vans, particularly when they are overloaded. While van manufacturers have added safety features over the years, such as electronic stability control and rear passenger seat belts, hundreds of thousands of older models lacking these features are still on the road. As of July 1, 2007 there were about 564,000 15-passenger vans registered in the US, and only 7 percent of them were manufactured after 2004, according to NHTSA.

Garcia-Karam represents victims of car and truck crashes, unsafe products, medical devices, and unsafe work places. Because of its civil successes, Mexico has designated Garcia & Karam as the recommended lawyers for Mexican citizens who are hurt or injured while in the United States.

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Teresa Kelly

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