May 21, 2009
Statement of Farbod Nourian, Los Angeles, Calif.
My name is Farbod Nourian. In the fall of 2007, I was in my senior year at UCLA, studying history, and I was planning on applying to law school. I was a good student with a 3.8 GPA.
On November 14, 2007, my cousin (who is a doctor) and I had gone out for dinner. [And to answer one question I have been asked, neither of us had anything to drink that day or night.] We were returning his car to his parking spot in an apartment building when the accident occurred.
As background, my cousin had two cars. One was a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee that he bought in 2002 while he was in medical school in Chicago. I have driven the Jeep a number of times, as it served as a back-up car for our family. The Jeep was parked in his parking spot, and I got out of my cousin’s other car to move the Jeep so he could park. He was then going to drive the Jeep over to his apartment complex a few blocks away and we were going to watch a movie.
I backed the Jeep out of the parking spot carefully so that my cousin could park his other car in the spot. Once my cousin had pulled his car into the parking spot, I drove the Jeep Grand Cherokee a few feet backward, shifted the car into park, and got out to walk around the back of the vehicle to the passenger side as my cousin was walking to get in the driver’s side. As I was walking toward the rear of the vehicle, I noted the Jeep start to move backwards under power. I turned and was caught by the door. I tried to get into the vehicle, which was racing towards me, to stop it. (The incident was caught on videotape, which is available for viewing after the press conference.)
I grabbed on for dear life and started to fall backwards. The vehicle hit a wall, knocking me flat on the hard concrete.
I was taken to the hospital, where I was found to have ruptured three disks and have crushed vertebrae in my back. I also suffered extensive internal bruising and injuries. Although I am blessed, unlike some victims of this defect in Chrysler vehicles, to be alive, I was unable to sit for three months. To this day I can not exercise (I used to do competitive martial arts) and I still experience pain, stiffness and soreness on a daily basis; sitting for more than one hour is painful. I also have ongoing gastrointestinal problems which have not gotten better.
Although I continue to do physical therapy and incur medical expenses, none of which have been paid, my doctors have told me that the pain, stiffness and soreness will be with me for the remainder of my life. I will be limited in the activities that I can do. I continue to experience emotional stress, anxiety, frustration and depression as a result of my injuries.
While I was finally able to go back to work, my job had to change, as I can’t lift any heavy objects. Most importantly to me, due to the pain and the stress of my injury, my grades suffered, I was forced to drop numerous classes, and this has made it harder to get into law school.
I have also been told by numerous doctors that, with severe back injuries like mine sustained early in life, I will have a constant risk of re-injuring myself, possibly resulting in paralysis. I have also been told that as I age, the pain will get worse, and eventually I will require very serious surgery. I am in great fear not just of the pain, but having this type of preexisting condition.
Chrysler had several choices, which they did not give me, to avoid this accident. I understand that when National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the Grand Cherokee in 2001, Chrysler had received over 48 complaints about the 1993-1999 Jeep Grand Cherokees alone, and hundreds about other vehicles with the same transmission design. This then mushroomed nearly ten-fold in a little over half a year once NHTSA’s investigation was opened. These reports included deaths and serious injuries. Chrysler had ignored these injuries and deaths and did not fix the Grand Cherokee to prevent park-to-reverse problems from happening before my cousin’s vehicle was sold.
Moreover, Chrysler slow-walked the recall until after my cousin had bought the Jeep used in early 2002. Had Chrysler recalled the vehicle earlier, it is likely that the prior owners or the dealer would have fixed the problem.
I am obviously concerned about my own health, and believe it is unjust for Chrysler to take billions in taxpayer funds and tell me that I am on my own despite being injured by their actions. While many victims can and will sue Chrysler’s dealers and suppliers, I can not easily do this since the vehicle was sold used. I’ll be left without anything for my injuries. I am also concerned about future victims and those who simply have problems with their vehicles that Chrysler refuses to fix under warranties.
As I understand it, Chrysler is asking the bankruptcy court to foreclose anyone who has been or will be injured by Chrysler cars currently on the road from suing the company. Yet the millions of people who Chrysler is trying to leave in the cold are those who currently own Chrysler’s cars. They are the very people who Chrysler hopes will buy its cars in the future.
I ask the Committee, the Treasury, the court and ultimately Chrysler’s management to think carefully about what Chrysler is proposing. Other consumer industries such as the airlines have done all they could to protect their customers in bankruptcy so as not to lose them as loyal customers. Chrysler should do the same, particularly for those it has injured—not try to stick it to them.