Two children tragically lost their lives when French driver Catherine Kohtz lost control of her Volvo 850. The 1999 incident, which Kohtz blamed on a loss of braking ability in her Volvo, has led to French courts handing down a finding of manslaughter. The guilty verdict against Volvo also carries an €200,000 fine, though Volvo holds that there wasn't anything wrong with the car's braking system and will likely appeal. Driver Kohtz was fined €300 and also sentenced to a six-month jail term, which was suspended.
Kohtz's accident was initially attributed to reckless operation, and tensions in the town of Wasselonne have been stirred by the circumstances of crash. Rumblings of Kohtz, relatively wealthy, having bought her way out of a more serious outcome for the death of two ten year olds from lesser means have been dividing the town in eastern France. An investigation determined that the brakes in the Volvo 850 suffered from a problem known to Volvo. Rather than recall 180,000 850s, Volvo is alleged to have quietly asked its dealers to fix a rubber pipe prone to rupture or detachment, causing a loss of braking ability. An investigating magistrate contended that service documents instructing dealers how to repair the problem were overly vague, leading to an improper and ineffective repair on Kohtz's car. For a company with such an emphasis on safety, its surprising that it would try to cover up a major flaw in such a crucial system. Volvo argued that the service documents that were seized outline an innocuous fault, and that something else like a loose water bottle behind the pedal was to blame.
[Source: BBC via Winding Road; The Independent]