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$150 Million Awarded to the Family of 4-Year-Old Killed In Jeep Fire
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Jeep Grand Cherokee Crash in George - 4-year-old killed

Summary: A Georgia jury awarded $150 million to a family who lost their 4-year-old son in a fire caused by a faulty rear fuel tank in their 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

On Thursday a Georgia jury awarded $150 million in punitive damages to a family who sued Chrysler Group LLC for the death of their 4-year-old son in 2012.

  
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Ending a two-week trial in Decatur County, Georgia, jurors decided that Chrysler, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, will be held accountable for the death of Remington Walden due to the fact that the rear fuel tank’s orientation could increase the risk of igniting during a rear-end collision.

Spokesperson Michael Palese, from Fiat Chrysler, indicated that the company was not satisfied with the ruling and will contemplate filing for an appeal.

Prior to the accident, Chrysler recalled 1.56 million Jeep SUV’s with rear fuel tanks. Unfortunately the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee that Walden was riding in was not on their list.

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Chrysler announced in 2013 that 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty’s were recalled due to improper fuel-tank placement. They also announced a “customer satisfaction campaign” for 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Chrysler’s announcement initially denied that there were safety issues, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has connected more than 50 deaths to the faulty fuel tanks.



4-year-old Walden was killed when a driver struck the rear of the Jeep that his family was riding in. The fuel tank ruptured and a blaze took over the vehicle. Jim Butler, a lawyer for the Walden family, stated that if the fuel tank had been placed farther forward on the Jeep, it would have been better protected.

Chrysler’s defense is that the fire did not cause the 4-year-old’s death. They argued that the driver of the vehicle that struck the Walden’s Jeep was to blame. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that, “regulators never found a defect in the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee and that there was no evidence that the vehicle was dangerous.”

Thursday afternoon the jury said Chrysler acted with “reckless and wanton disregard.” They instructed the Chrysler Corporation to pay 99% of the damages and the driver that rear-ended the vehicle to pay 1% of the damages. The Walden family is pleased with the verdict.

In a statement made by Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety, he said that this verdict should prompt NHTSA to reopen its investigation into fuel tank fires.

Source: Huffington Post and Reuters

Image credit: AP Photo/Courtesy of Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer, LLP



 

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