Jeep to Pay $40 Million in Wrongful Death Suit

A Georgia jury recently heard a devastating trial against Jeep’s manufacturer, Fiat Chrysler, over the death of four-year-old boy. Our team of auto accident attorneys report on this multi-million dollar case below.

In 2013, federal authorities asked Fiat Chrysler to recall nearly three million Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Liberties for fuel tank problems, which were prone to catching fire in rear-end crashes. The trial involved one of the defective vehicles, a 1999 Jeep Cherokee.

In 2012, a four-year-old boy, Remi Walden, was riding in his aunt’s Jeep when the vehicle was rear-ended. Remi was in his booster seat in the backseat of the Jeep, which caught fire almost immediately after the collision. Remi was unable to get out of his booster, ultimately burning to death, though exerts estimated that he lived for up to a full minute after the flames reached his body.

His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler, claiming the company showed a reckless disregard for human life in the design and sale of the Jeep and failed to warn consumers about the risk of rear-end collisions. Company memos presented at trial showed that Fiat Chrysler knew rear-positioned fuel tanks were dangerous as far back as the 1970s and failed to fix the design.

The plaintiffs argued that Fiat Chrysler had irrefutable proof that placing a fuel tank in a vehicle’s “crush zone,” between the rear bumper and axle, makes it vulnerable to catching fire in crash. They also claimed that the company knew it was feasible, practicable, and safer to redesign the fuel tank placement, but chose not to do so in the interest of profits.

After the eight day trial a Georgia jury awarded Remi’s parents $120 million for the wrongful death of their son and $30 million for pain and suffering. Fiat Chrysler asked for a new trial, considering the $150 million to be irrationally excessive. The parents agreed to a reasonable reduction of the award, ultimately accepting $40 million.

Federal investigators have officially linked 75 deaths to the Jeep rear-tank defects, though there are likely many more.

Jeep Wranglers Investigated for Airbag Issues

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (or the NHTSA) recently opened investigations into five vehicles from a variety of manufacturers. The largest investigation involved about 630,000 Jeep Wranglers, model years 2007-2012.

The NHTSA has received hundreds of customer complaints that the airbag warning lights were turning on, indicating that the airbag would not function properly. The agency says the Wranglers may have an electrical problem, as many owners say they have had to replace the wiring in the drivers’ side many times. This issue could be related to dust in rural areas, and could prevent the air bag from deploying in a crash.

Chrysler also recently recalled its Dodge Ram pickup trucks for defective steering systems. The steering wheels sometimes wobble while in operation, swiftly becoming a safety issue for drivers throughout the country. Owners of these defective Dodge Rams have filed a proposed class action lawsuit, claiming the trucks are defective, too weak to withstand normal use, and often fracture and fail while driving.

Our team of auto accident attorneys urges consumers to stay up-to-date on vehicle investigations and recalls, and to report any oddities you experience while driving. If you or someone you love was seriously injured in an auto accident, contact our firm immediately for a free case review. We accept clients nationwide, and we never charge any attorneys’ fees unless we win you a settlement or verdict.

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