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Regulation of Limousine Industry Called Poor in Wake of Deadly Fire

The AP reports that “authorities searched for answers Monday, hoping to learn what sparked the blaze and why five of the victims could not escape the fast-spreading flames.” The AP notes that “Joan Claybrook, the top federal auto-safety regulator under President Jimmy Carter, said the stretch limousine industry is poorly regulated because the main agency that oversees car safety doesn’t have enough money to prioritize investigating the small businesses that modify limos after they leave the assembly line.” Meanwhile, “U.S. Department of Transportation data shows five people died in three separate stretch limo accidents in 2010, and 21 people died in another three stretch limo accidents in 2011.”

The AP reports that “a California agency probing a deadly limousine fire that killed five women is considering whether to fine the limo company $7,500 per day for misrepresenting the limo’s seating capacity.” The AP notes that “the California Public Utilities Commission had authorized the vehicle to carry eight or fewer passengers, but it had nine on the night of the deadly fire.”

CBS News reports that “according to records from the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates limousine companies,” the company that owned the vehicle, Limo Stop, “is licensed and insured.”

Also reporting are the San Francisco ChronicleTimeLos Angeles TimesKATU-TV Portland, OR, and KNTV-TV San Jose, CA.

Questions raised about past recalls. The Los Angeles Times reports that “while that model vehicle was part of a large recall involving several Ford models, the problems and fixes did not involve mechanics in the rear of the vehicle – where Saturday’s lethal fire is believed to have started.” The Times notes that “the 1999 Lincoln Town Car was part of a broad investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 2001 and 2003 into fuel tank fires after rear-end collisions, but authorities said Saturday’s incident did not involve a collision.” Meanwhile, “the NHTSA website shows one complaint – logged in 2004 – of a customer reporting an electrical circuit board issue with a 1999 Lincoln Town Car limousine” when the lighting and air conditioning in the rear of the vehicle failed.

Driver, passenger offer differing accounts of limousine fire.

The AP reports that passenger Nelia “Arellano said in an interview Monday with KGO-TV that she believes the driver, Oliver Brown, could have done more to help during the fire, which took place Saturday night on one of the busiest bridges on San Francisco Bay.” Meanwhile, Brown said he stopped as soon as he could and that “one of the women who made it through the partition ran to the back and yanked open a door, but Brown said that provided oxygen to the fire and the rear of the limo became engulfed in flames.” Brown believes is was an electrical fire. The AP notes the US DOT data show that five people died in three separate stretch limo accidents in 2010 and 21 died in three accidents in 2011.

Also reporting are Southern California Public Radio and the New York Daily News.

Regulation of limousines scrutinized after fatal fire in California. The San Jose Mercury News reports, “The limousine that burst into flames on the San Mateo Bridge, killing five women, wasn’t required to undergo a state safety inspection – or even carry a fire-extinguisher – under the regulations that are supposed to ensure the thousands of limos on California’s roads are safe.” The Mercury News notes that “the inspection loophole – and the lack of fire extinguisher requirements – raised new concerns Tuesday as authorities continued what they say will be a lengthy investigation into what caused Saturday’s horrific inferno.” Meanwhile, “Tuesday, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said he would introduce a bill next week requiring fire extinguishers in limos and would also explore why the cars carrying 10 or fewer people, including the driver, are not inspected.”

The AP also offers “5 Things to Know About Renting a Limo or Party Bus.” Under the first item, the AP noes that “after shopping around for the best price, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesman Duane DeBruyne recommends looking up safety records for companies that are authorized to speed passengers across state lines on this federal site:”

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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