Earlier this week, almost two years after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compelled Chrysler to recall more than 1.5 million vehicles due to a gas tank issue, a jury in Georgia awarded $150 million dollars to the family of a four-year-old boy who was killed when his aunt’s 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee burst into flames after being struck from behind by another vehicle.
In 2010, the NHTSA began investigating the placement of the gas tanks in Jeep Grand Cherokees, model years 1993-2004 and Liberties, model years 2002-2007. Testing revealed that the rear-mounted fuel tanks had little structure to protect them if the vehicle was struck from behind, and therefore made the tanks subject to punctures, fires, and explosions.
Accordingly, the NHTSA determined that the placement of the gas tank behind the rear axle of these vehicles without adequate protection was a safety defect. In fact, in a 2013 letter to Chrysler, the NHTSA stated that this defect posed an “unreasonable risk” of burning to death in rear impact collisions. Records show that at least seventy-five (75) people have died in post-crash fires because of the rear-mounted fuel tanks.
Subsequently, Chrysler, despite continuing to claim that no defects exist, issued a recall on those vehicles, installing a tow hitch on the vehicle in an effort to fix the issue. However, both the NHTSA and Chrysler employees have admitted that while the tow package provides incremental safety benefits, it does not completely protect the fuel tank. Incredibly, despite this recall, many Jeep owners are being turned away by dealerships when they ask for the recall repair, and are told that the vehicles are safe even without the repair.
Following a nine day trial, the Georgia jury determined that Chrylser was ninety-nine (99) percent at fault for the accident that caused the four-year-old boy’s death, as a result of the failure to warn his family of the hazards of driving the Jeep.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a fire or explosion in a Chrysler vehicle, contact our office for a free consultation.