Jurors in Decatur County in Georgia ruled Thursday April 2 that Chrysler must pay nearly the full amount to the family of a 4-year-old boy who was killed when a Jeep Grand Cherokee burst into flames due to the fuel tank that was mounted behind the rear axle three years ago after being rear-ended.
The fuel tank that was mounted behind the rear axle began leaking and burst into flames, killing the young boy inside the Jeep.
Decatur County’s jurors ruled after a seven day trial that Chrysler “acted with reckless disregard of the human life in the design of the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee.”
They also deemed Chrysler was 99% at fault while the pickup truck was 1% at fault.
Jurors also ruled that the family of the young boy should receive $30 million for pain and suffering and $120 million for the full value of the boy’s life.
Federal documents presented that at least 75 people have died as a result of gas leaks due to the fuel tanks mounted behind the rear axle.
The verdict took nearly two years after the accident after Chrysler compromised with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a recall. Chrysler had initially done a broader recall request that was issued by regulators where the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee was recalled, but agreed to a small-scale recall of the older model Jeeps with rear-mounted fuel tanks.
Results showed that rear-mounted fuel tanks are more susceptible to punctures and fires if impacted from behind.
There is a debate as to whether Chrysler had warned consumers about the gas tank being vulnerable to rear impact as well as if the vehicle design is defective.
The lawsuit that Chrysler allegedly place the fuel tank in a “crush zone” knowing it was a dangerous location to place the fuel tank and the company failed to protect the gas tank against punctures.
As large as this verdict seems, this isn’t the largest judgment against automakers in personal injury cases. For instance in 2004, a woman was paralyzed after her Ford Explorer rolled over and won a $369 million verdict from Ford Motor Co. However, Ford appealed all the way the U.S. Supreme Court and the verdict was reduced to $83 million.
Wrongful death can be a result of product liability or defected product. It is unfortunate that it took a fatal accident for the company to take stronger actions to prevent more fatal accidents to occur. If you feel that you know someone that is a victim of a wrongful death due to defected products call a reputable personal injury firm and get your case assessed by an experienced member.