The largest car hire company in the US, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, has been told by a jury that it must pay $15 million to the parents of Jacqueline and Raechel Houck. The sisters were traveling in a vehicle rented from the firm when they died in a car crash in 2004. The damages were awarded by the jury after they heard that the 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser, which 24-year-old Raechel Houck had rented from Enterprise, was on a recall list.

A month before Raechel was handed the keys for her car hire, Chrysler had issued a safety recall notice for 435,000 PT Cruiser models made between 2002 and 2005. The reason the car maker gave was that the power steering hose was prone to leakage, which could subsequently result in a fire.

On Highway 101, close to the town of Bradley, the Houck sisters crossed over the grass divider in the middle of the road and collided with a large truck. Their rental car then burst into flames resulting in the deaths of both girls. Legal representatives of the girl’s parents say that experts have concluded that the crash was the direct result of a loss of steering due to a fluid leak.

Enterprise claimed that the crash was a result of Raechel’s driving, and according to Lawrence Grassini, the parent’s lawyer, offered to pay $3 million if the matter remained confidential.

Safety Research and Strategies spokesman, Sean Kane, said that car recalls by manufacturers were always to do with safety issues. He added that it was never the consumer’s responsibility to deal with the problem, but that of company which owned the vehicle.