Volvo fined 200,000 euros over fatal French car crash
Swedish car manufacturer Volvo was found guilty of manslaughter and fined 200,000 euros over a car crash that cost the lives of two children
SAVERNE, France, January 31, 2008 - Swedish car manufacturer Volvo was
found guilty of manslaughter and fined 200,000 euros (296,000 dollars)
Thursday over a car crash that cost the lives of two children in eastern
France in 1999.
The court ruled that faulty brakes on the Volvo 850 TDI vehicle were the
indirect cause of the crash, in which a French teacher ran over two young
children on their way to school.
The driver, 57-year-old Catherine Kohtz, was handed a six-month suspended
prison sentence and a 300-euro fine, as well as having her licence temporarily
revoked, for failure to control her vehicle.
"I feel a bit numb, but the most important thing is that Volvo has been
convicted," Kohtz said after the verdict.
"All our efforts during seven years of procedure have been crowned with
success," added her lawyer Thierry Kahn.
"Everything we said during the trial has been acknowledged by the court, ie
that the Volvo's brakes were not working."
Prosecutors had called for a 150,000-euro "dissuasive" fine against the car
maker, which was found guilty of involuntary homicide and causing involontary
Volvo Cars spokesman in Sweden, Olle Axelson, said the company was still
looking at the details of the verdict.
"This is a tragic incident for everyone involved," Axelson, while insisting
that faulty brakes were not to blame.
"There was no problem with the brakes," he said.
The accident occurred on June 17, 1999, in the eastern French town of
Wasselonne, killing two children aged 9 and 10 and leaving a third seriously
Kohtz -- who prosecutors described as the "last link in the chain" of
events that caused the crash -- insisted during the trial she did everything
to avoid it, saying her car brakes had stopped responding.
Volvo's lawyers denied any fault with the vehicle, suggesting the driver
may have confused the accelerator and brake pedals in a moment of panic.
But the court ruled that Volvo "was perfectly aware that the braking system
on this type of vehicle was not perfect since it made minor modifications to
it on several occasions."
It argued that the repeated changes showed "the manufacturer's inability to
provide an appropriate technical response."
The prosecution had dropped charges during the trial against the car
maker's French subsidiary Volvo France, now part of Ford, and the dealership
that sold the car.