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Chrysler Sues 3 Lawyers for Bogus Suit

July 10, 2003

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Chrysler Group is suing three Texas lawyers, accusing them of filing a bogus $2 billion product liability lawsuit against the automaker and then tampering with evidence.

``We’re fighting back against lawsuit abuse,″ Chrysler attorney Steve Hantler said at a news conference Wednesday in Austin. Chrysler has taken similar action against lawyers in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

The Texas lawsuit, filed Tuesday in state district court in San Antonio, seeks unspecified monetary damages from Robert Kugle, Robert ``Trey″ Wilson III and Andrew Toscano.

Wilson did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Toscano would not take a call from The Associated Press, said a person who answered the phone in his office.

Kugle was suspended from practicing law in the state, according to the State Bar of Texas. He did not return a telephone message left Wednesday by the AP.

Chrysler lawyers say the men waged a ``strike-it-rich scheme″ by pursuing a fraudulent $2 billion lawsuit against the company and seeking a settlement in a 1996 fatal crash of a Dodge Neon in Mexico.

The widow of the car’s driver sued the Chrysler Corp. in mid-1998, claiming the crash was caused in part by a defective steering wheel part.

Chrysler Corp., which merged with Daimler-Benz AG later that year, contended that the woman told authorities her husband fell asleep at the wheel before the crash occurred but that the lawyers tried to get her to change her testimony.

The company contends that the lawyers also tampered with evidence, including actually breaking the steering wheel part that was shown intact in photos.

In 2000, a state district judge fined the lawyers $920,489 for tampering with evidence and attempting to bribe witnesses.

The judge also dismissed the $2 billion lawsuit, a decision the lawyers unsuccessfully appealed.

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