St. Augustine family is homeless after 2001 Dodge Durango catches fire and destroys home

On Your Side: Vehicle recall at the center of house fire

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -  A month ago Brenda Phillips and her family were sleeping  in their St. Augustine Home asleep when it erupted in flames.

"I could see the flames through the window," said Phillips. "I opened my curtains and my car was on fire."

Philips had parked her 2004 Dodge Durango next to her bedroom widow as always.

"I ran through the house and told them to get out that the car was on fire and they thought that I was joking," she said.

Chad Walle, a roommate, was also in the house.

"I had to get up and go check for myself," he said. "By the time I got out there it was just engulfed in flames."

A state fire Investigator ruled the blaze was caused by an engine compartment failure. It was a surprise to Phillips. "I keep up with the maintenance on my car," she said.

What she did not know is the vehicle has had a history of recalls. A pitfall for consumers buying used vehicles. National Highway Traffic Administration records reveal the 2004 Dodge Durango, the same model she owns, has had eight investigations, 1,019 complaints and seven recalls.

"They always told me there was no problems with my car," she said. Phillips is the second owner and was never told that there was a recall for the battery cable touching the upper control arm and causing a potential fire under the hood.

Federal laws do not require used-car dealers to repair vehicles with safety defects before putting them back on the road. Nor are dealers required by law to disclose to customers that a vehicle is the subject of a recall.

"If the recall wasn't there I'd still have my car," she said. "I'd still have my home. I'd still have the pictures and ornaments my kids made in school."

Philips said she had no rental Insurance, and her Dodge Durango had basic PIP coverage. A month after the fire she and her family are living out of their second vehicle while they rebuild. "Everything is a total loss," she said.

She considered suing Chrysler and others but said every attorney she has spoken with told her something along the lines of "sorry for your loss but who are you going to sue?"

And if she could sue it would be too costly. The American Red Cross was able to help, but the family is in dire financial need and has set up a GoFundMe account. That account is at this link

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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