- Jinks Crow & Dickson
$40 Million Verdict Upheld Against Chrysler for Deadly Jeep Gas Tank
With the holidays approaching, more people are on the roads and more accidents are going to happen. A stark reminder of what happens with increased traffic and poorly designed vehicles came out this week, a Georgia court decision this week upheld a $40 million judgment in the death of a four-year-old boy who died when his family’s Jeep Grand Cherokee was rear-ended and burst into flames.
Safety advocates say Remington Walden is one of at least 270 people that have died in similar accidents involving older Jeep Cherokees with rear-mounted fuel tanks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studied the cases for years but never ordered a formal recall. Lawyers allege that, instead of issuing a recall, federal officials and top FCA executives agreed to a “customer satisfaction campaign” that called for installing safety hitches as a protective measure, even though that solution was never scientifically proven to be effective at a secret 2013 meeting at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has linked more than 50 deaths to the fuel-tank problems.
Remington Walden was riding in the back seat of the 1999 Jeep when it was rear-ended by a pickup truck in March 2012, puncturing the gas tank and starting a fire. The Jeep was one of about 1 million vehicles that were part of the unofficial recall that came about after the 2013 meeting in Chicago and that resulted in the Chrysler/Jeep retrofitting the vehicles with a trailer hitch to protect the gas tank, which was located behind the rear axle.
The jury in the case had awarded Remington’s family $150 million, but the judge reduced it to $40 million. The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld that verdict Tuesday.
Jurors quoted in press reports at the time said they were convinced by testimony at the trial that Remington survived the crash but died in the subsequent fire. Judge J. Kevin Chason in Decatur County said the family of Remington Walden should receive $30 million for his wrongful death and $10 million for pain and suffering. Walden was killed when the Jeep he was riding in was struck from behind, rupturing the fuel tank and creating an “inferno,” according to the lawyer representing the Walden family.
FCA has been ordered to pay a record $105 million civil penalty over lapses in safety recalls involving millions of vehicles. If your vehicle is the subject of a recall, it is imperative that you take it to the dealership immediately and get the work performed.