The family of a 4-year-old boy, who died in 2012 in an accident, was awarded $150 million by a jury for its claim against Chrysler Group LLC. The auto product liability claim was filed after the family’s 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee was rear-ended, causing the fuel tank to split and ignite. Problems with the position of the fuel tanks in certain models have been reported across the United States, including in New Jersey.
In 2013, the company recalled all Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured between 1993 and 1998, as well as 2002-2007 Jeep Libertys. The recall came after concerns regarding the placement of the fuel tanks emerged. At that time, it was also announced that a “customer satisfaction campaign” for Jeep Cherokees manufactured between 1999 and 2004 would be launched, but those models were never recalled.
During the trial, the company’s lawyers argued that the boy was not killed by the fire. They placed the blame on the driver who hit the family’s SUV with his vehicle. The CEO of Chrysler claimed that no evidence of a fault in that model of the Jeep Grand Cherokee was found, and, thus, there was no evidence that the SUV was dangerous. The jury found otherwise and ruled that the driver who hit the SUV should pay 1 percent of the damages, and the Chrysler Group should pay the other 99 percent. The jury found that by failing to warn customers of the increased risk of fire created by the position of the fuel tank in these SUVs, the company acted negligently.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 50 deaths have been linked to problems with fuel tanks in Chrysler SUVs. More claims may follow on the success of this claim. Auto product liability claims may be instituted against Chrysler by the legal estate of deceased victims or by individuals injured in accidents in New Jersey attributed to the increased risk of fire because of the placement of the fuel tanks in these models. Although compensation may provide very little consolation to families, it can assist in making their lives easier in the aftermath of accidents.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Family Of 4-Year-Old Killed In Jeep Fire Awarded $150 Million“, Jessica Dye, April 2, 2015
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