By on April 6, 2015

1999 Grand Cherokee Launch-12

After two weeks of deliberation, a jury in Decatur County, Georgia has found Jeep liable for the 2012 death of a 4-year-old involving a 1999 Grand Cherokee.

Reuters reports the decision puts the loss of Remington Walden at Jeep’s feet as a result of the automaker failing to warn consumers of a potential risk for fire in a rear-end crash due to the positioning of the SUV’s fuel tank. The jury also ordered the brand to pay 99 percent — $150 million — of the damages to the Walden family, with the motorist who rear-ended the vehicle to pay the remaining 1 percent.

The decision follows a 2013 recall by FCA US — then-known as Chrysler Group — of 1993-1998 Grand Cherokees, a customer satisfaction campaign for 1999-2004 models, and a recall of 2002-2007 Libertys over fuel-tank positioning concerns.

FCA representative Michael Palese says the company was disappointed by the outcome — its lawyers putting all of the blame on the driver on the other vehicle — and is considering appealing.

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91 Comments on “Georgia Jury Orders Jeep To Pay $150M For Role In 2012 Fatal Accident...”


  • avatar
    anti121hero

    There has been a recall for these jeeps for a while. They install a trailer hitch in place. I had an 02 limited that got it, and my 98 grand has an appointment for one.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    What does a customer satisfaction campaign entail?

    “Are you satisfied that your Grand Cherokee has not caught fire from a rear end collision?”

    I always liked this GC and the one before particularly in red. Bright or darker, doesn’t matter. With those gold tone Limited wheels. However, riding in one once (I think it was an 03) I was shocked at the lack of interior space for what is a pretty large vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      EMedPA

      I had one of these (a ’99 Laredo) and part of the reason there was so little cargo capacity was that the spare tire was put under the cargo floor.

      • 0 avatar
        anti121hero

        Yes, my 98 has a lot more room than my 02 did. I’ve had it packed to the brim with boxes, a dresser, and I’ve carried engines and transmissions all with the bsck seat down. Much roomier than my 93 regular cherokee.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    They left the gas tank totally exposed to rear impact, to where it’s an eyesore without the hitch. You’re looking right at the tank from behind. I mean, are you supposed to wash off the tank’s mud/grime it when detailing the SUV, or leave it? Where do you stop washing?

  • avatar
    udman

    To find a car company negligent for a vehicle built 13 years ago is one of the most egregious rulings within the court system. This is really the fault of Ambulance Chasing Lawyers and the litigious society we all seem to be part of in the US.

    The vehicles were deemed as “Safe” when they were manufactured, and most have gone to the graveyard by now, so why isn’t the driver who plowed into the rear of the jeep held liable (OK, they are at 1% of the jury award…). Yes it is tragic that there was a loss of life, but if you want to protect your family from the possibility of something like this happening… then don’t rely on a 13 year old car. Get a new one, or have the recall completed at the very least.

    • 0 avatar
      RetroGrouch

      In my opinion, building a vehicle with the fuel tank dangerously exposed and prone to rupture is negligent.

    • 0 avatar
      beastpilot

      Read a bit more carefully. The accident occurred in 2012, the recall in 2013, so there was no recall to be done at the time.

      The average car on the road is 11 years old. Saying that a 13 year old car is so old that it’s acceptable to be a rolling death trap kind of ignores the reality of modern cars. The 1999 JGC was sold from 1999-2004 so it could have just as easily been a 2004 car with the same issue (only 8 years old).

      Watch the movie “hot coffee” if you want an adjustment on your attitude about tort law and how much of it is out litigious society vs actual harm done and the attitude of the company.

      All that said, I don’t know more details of the accident other than this article, so I’m not an expert on if this is justified or not. If you have more data that $150M is unreasonable than what is in this article then I’m sure we’d all like to hear it. As an FYI, they sold a couple million JGC’s, so this is only a couple bucks per car they made with a design defect.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      It was deemed “safe” when manufactured? Really? Are you telling me that it was standard behavior 13 years ago to leave the fuel tank dangling down behind the rear axle, protected by absolutely bupkis from pretty much any oncoming vehicle?

      And the fatality numbers from this defect make the GM Ignition Switch fiasco seem like a minor issue.

      • 0 avatar
        NotFast

        Not that I want MORE government regulation, but why don’t the Fed test the rear collision abilities of new cars (like they do with the front)? I guess I don’t know how likely this gas tank is to go BOOM, but rear impact testing might have revealed it.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        NHTSA was far from the extremist we have today. It was more like the Honor System back then. Jeep having to pay is a given. Clear negligence. High riding SUV, low hanging fuel tank with zero protection?

        That’s maybe 10X more than reasonable, but they should have settled out.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        It was safe enough to be sold. And has proven safe enough to be entirely unproblematic for what may well in the millions of cars. It’s also a place that absent a gas tank, may have been largely wasted. Leaving customers of what was a fairly decent remote travel vehicle, with a substantially smaller gas tank mounted somewhere else.

        The fact that it may just be possible after a few million tries to demonstrate a sequence of events where an ancient vehicle just happens to be less protective of each and every occupant than a properly outfittet brand new Abrams tank, is a pretty poor reason to make all new cars more expensive just to enrich and empower a gang of slimy lawyers. Those who feel different, really ought to have their favorite exhalted ambulance chaser design and build their car for them. And leave those of us higher up the competency ladder, to ourselves.

      • 0 avatar
        Lack Thereof

        Yes. That was and still is standard procedure. The only company that takes extra special measures to protect the gas tank above and beyond what is required by law (which, again, is to survive a 30 MPH rear impact from a 2-ton flat-front object without spilling more than an ounce of gasoline) is Ford, and the only reason they take special care is because they’ve been burned in the past.

        For most passenger cars, bumper height regulations prevent this sort of thing from happening. SUVs and trucks don’t have those bumper height regulations, because we as a country have decided off-road-friendly approach and departure angles are more important than safety.

    • 0 avatar

      We had the pintos with this problem 2-3 decades earlier, anotehr reason this should not have happened.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Actually, we had full sized cars with the 20 gallon tank right behind the bumper and the fuel filler behind the license plate. My ’63 Chrysler and ’65 Impala had that. Of course, they were BOF and the bumpers were 1/4 steel stamped into shape and chromed, and bolted to the ladder frame.

        Still, a truck with a high bumper could have and probably did cause fires at impact. Back then the guy who drove into the rear end was considered at fault, and California still requires a driver to be in full control of his/her vehicle: hit someone and it’s your fault.

  • avatar
    ATLOffroad

    My wife would always give me a hard time whenever I got beneath my 97 Cherokee to scub off the gas tank. It stands out like a sore thumb when the rest of the car is clean and polished.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Even granting FCA’s negligence, 150 million dollars for a single death is wildly out of line. Federal agencies typically value one preventable death at 5 to 10 million dollars in regulatory CBAs.

    Valuation 15 to 30 times higher would stop many segments of the economy overnight if enforced with any consistency.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      I’m presuming that the majority of the award is for punitive damages, designed to punish FCA for their wanton disregard for the safety of the consumers. The intent of punitive damages is the actually try and punish the company for the wrong that was committed and keep them from doing something similar in the future. 5 million is chump change for FCA in the big scheme of things.

      I can’t speak to the right/wrong of the dollar amount, but if you look at it in terms of punishing a company, its should make a little more sense.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Good guess, but not correct in this case. $30M was for pain and suffering, $120M for the value of his life.

        It’s hard to rationalize paying $120M for a four-year old with no income or quantified potential earning power. That will get slashed on appeal.

        • 0 avatar
          LALoser

          I agree. Some on TTAC like to try their hand at personal version social engineering: “An Autoworker does not deserve to make as much as me with a degree in X”.
          How about this one: The death benefit of a military member killed in action is currently what, a 100K?
          What is the death benefit on your insurance policy?
          This is very tragic, but something is not right here.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I would presume that the jury had hit some sort of pain-and-suffering cap and was looking for some other justification for increasing the total award.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Lawyers don’t get to collect 20-30+% of what is paid out for dead soldiers, hence the difference.

          • 0 avatar
            wsn

            Yep, sounds like the level of intelligence from an auto worker.

            One who joins the military would know the potential death risk of such a career.

            As for the life insurance, the yearly cost and coverage are mutually agreed upon.

            In this Jeep case, the car buyer never signed on any contract with the auto maker regarding compensation for lost of life.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            SGLI is 400,000 and there is an immediate 100,000 paid. So you are looking at 500k for a Soldier killed in combat before social security, dependant healthcare, and any other life insurance hit. Still less than the 150 mil or so but we did the math and the insurance was adequate in the event I had a bad day in the desert.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            SGLI is simply life insurance (through Prudential, in fact) and you have to pay into it to get it. Costs $3.50 a month for $50k coverage, $29 a month for the $400k, or various choices in between so it’s a decent deal. But you still have to pay for it (and you can decline it and keep the few bucks a month, if you so desire).

  • avatar
    eManual

    The question is what the $150 million is supposed to fix. I’m sorry for the family to lose their 4 year old, and one cannot predict the worth of their child in either monetary (such as the child’s potential income) or non-monetary (what wonderful person they might meet and have children with) terms, but such a large amount is unrealistic to an “average” lifetime. Most “umbrella” insurance policies are on the order of 1 million, so a 5 million settlement for the child is more than generous, which mostly answers the terms above. If costly “expert testimony” was needed in the trial, ok to add that too, but that comes nowhere near $150M.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      This article didn’t split it, but most 9-figure verdicts are 1% damages and 99% punitive. The punitive part being the piece that punishes the company and makes them not want to do dumb things in the future (a purely damages-related verdict of $1.5M would be like fining you or me $150.) Agree, a dead kid is tragic but basically the least valuable death in terms of actual damages to a family (a kid has no discounted future earnings, unlike a parent) but probably worth a lot more in terms of punitive damages due to the emotion factor.

      It’s crass to take about it this way, but that’s generally how the courts see it.

      • 0 avatar
        eManual

        OK, but who gets the other 90-99%? If a fund is set up for other victims, such as the Mesothelioma ads for Asbestos, that’s fine, but no way should the lawyers take home 30-50% of the $150M. Since the court is in Georgia, how does this help others throughout the US?

        IIRC, most states use triple damages as punitive, not 10 to 1 or more.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          It all goes to the victims, it’s just a split. And yes, there are usually guidelines, but I believe that’s all they are, jury can disregard as they wish.

          Not a lawyer, but read a lot of Grisham.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        The “punitive” side of lawsuits becomes a very slippery slope.

        Why not just hand the family the entire company? That would really teach a lesson to the rest of the car companies.

        I remember GM one time got a handed a multi-BILLION dollar judgement for something similar.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Judgments like this are usually intended to send a message and to punish the offender for a perceived track record of bad behavior that isn’t limited to one particular case.

      The judgment will be appealed. The award will almost certainly be drastically cut.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        While in reality, two messages are sent:

        To makers: Be paranoid enough to avoid attempt anything even remotely risky, meaning fire your engineering staff and hire more lawyers.

        To parents: Be as clueless and incompetent as you humanly can in your choice of appropriate vehicle to ferry your kids around it. After all, if you’re successful enough in your race towards incompetence, you just might end up rich! Just like the lawyers running the racket.

  • avatar
    TW5

    It will be overturned and remanded on appeal. The question is whether the appeals process will cost more or less than the marginal savings. Who knows?

    These kinds of verdicts always tarnish the reputation of adversarial legal systems with jury by peers. The reason this went to trial is likely because the plaintiff’s council knew the jury would be susceptible to sociological arguments that have nothing to do with the legal process of attributing fault and awarding damages.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Once again, Chrysler demonstrates that its appeal is only skin deep.
    I remember seeing a Cherokee that had rear ended a K car. This was Detroit so it was not wildly improbable. The whole front bumper of the Cherokee had fallen off. The K car appeared untouched.
    And yes, after having been in a Cherokee, the K car probably had more interior room.
    Another triumph of style over substance.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Guess you haven’t witnessed too many rear-end collisions, then. No matter the makes involved, the striking vehicle often suffers significant front-end damage (broken lights, hood peeled back, cracked radiator, etc.) while the vehicle ahead escapes relatively unscathed, perhaps with some gouges on the rear bumper.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I’m living proof of that. My 2007 Focus was demolished and totaled, but the Monte Carlo I ran into was able to be driven home and only needed about $3000 work, most of which was labor.

      • 0 avatar
        anti121hero

        In the dead of winter I had a brake line go and went into the back of a Sebring convertible with my lifted grand cherokee. It didn’t even dent my bumper or scratch my grill. His car lost the bumper, caved in the trunk and back end, and lost both lights. I guess I’m the exception though.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Usually a lot of rear-end collisions have the attacking car hitting its brakes and pretty nose-down, presenting the soft part of the front (grill, headlights, and front lip of the hood once the crumpling begins) to the hard part of the receiving vehicle (its bumper).

          Your case with your brake failure probably didn’t have much nose dive.

  • avatar
    GTL

    Does no one remember the lessons of the Ford Pinto?

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    We need tort reform and caps on this sort of nonsense.

    So someone crashes into a person and kills them, and most of the damage is instead paid by the automaker? It’s a shake down to find who has the deepest pockets in any tragedy.

    At the end of the day, how many people actually died from this “design flaw”? Was it statistically significant? I’m not defending the design, but there’s always “more” you can do to make a car safer until it just becomes ridiculously expensive for consumers. I’m sure companies that manufacture car seats for children know of ways to make them safer, that doesn’t mean their current designs are negligent.

    At some point, you have to recognize that people die in automobile crashes, it’s just part of the territory. It’s not a product like a smartphone.

    Also, the NHTSA should have guidelines and once a car is “cleared” to be sold to the public, lawsuits should be on the government agency and their standards rather than the automaker. Otherwise, you’re always going to have “you should have done more” type lawsuits in front of low IQ jurors.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “once a car is “cleared” to be sold to the public”

      The US government is not involved in “clearing” cars for sale. Manufacturers are expected to follow the law; violations are determined after the fact.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        Certain aspects certainly do have to be cleared by the government.

        Can a new car be sold without airbags?
        What about the recent rule regarding backup cameras?

        The EPA has to certify engines.
        The D.O.T. has all sorts of rules regarding headlights and taillights.

        The list goes on and on and a car can absolutely be suspended for sale by the government.

        What I’m saying is, there needs to be some sort of NHTSA standards that a company either meets or doesn’t meet regarding crash standards and that’s where the pressure needs to be put if a car is deemed unsafe. Otherwise the whole agency should just be scrapped.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          No, the government does not certify that cars are crashworthy before they are sold. The government has regulations to be followed; it does not verify that they were followed before the fact.

          Last I checked, NHTSA crashtested cars by purchasing them from dealers and testing them independently. Not all cars are crashtested.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            You said the government doesn’t certify cars, I was pointing out that’s actually incorrect. There’s a myriad of certifications for car companies if they want to sell automobiles.

            My point was there needs to be some sort of standardization so automobile companies can both make safe cars and not have a constantly evolving legal definition of when a crash design is negligent. I never said that currently is the policy.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You confuse having regulations with the process of ensuring the regulations are followed.

            Of course there are laws. But the US does not police the OEM’s to make sure that everything is crashworthy before it leaves the plant. The US uses a “voluntary compliance” system that makes enforcement an after-the-fact matter.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            That was your confusion, not mine.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Your belief that cars are “cleared” for sale in the US makes it clear that you don’t understand how things work.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            Yes, certain parts of a car have to be “cleared” before they can legally be sold.

            An example, the EPA must certify an engine before it can be sold as a vehicle on public roads.

            This is on the EPA’s own website:

            “Anyone wishing to sell an engine or vehicle within the United States must demonstrate compliance with the CAA and all applicable EPA regulations. Upon adequate representation of conformity by the manufacturer and possibly confirmatory testing by EPA, EPA may issue a Certificate of Conformity which provides authorization for production and sales within the United States. “

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            NHTSA crash tests cars after the fact.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            You keep incorrectly saying the government doesn’t certify cars.

            Do you just like arguing with yourself? Because you don’t need me to do that.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The US government clears engines for emissions compliance.

            It does not clear cars for sale. They are not crashtested prior to sale.

            Emissions compliance has nothing to do with this lawsuit.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            Look, it’s quite simple. The government sets standards (safety, emissions, etc). Car makers put forth that they adhere to those standards, based on their own testing. The gov’t does a small amount of “audit” testing, but in general, a car maker certifies that its cars meet the standards set by the government, the government does not.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            UN ECE uses a “type approval” system. Type approval requires that the full car plus its individual components must be approved by the government or approved agency before the car can be sold.

            The US is different. Here, the government uses recalls and TSBs to fix mistakes after the fact and consumers can use the civil courts to recover their damages, but there is no pre-screening for crash testing and not everything is crashtested.

            The industry jargon for the US approach is “voluntary compliance.” It obviously isn’t voluntary; it’s closer to Reagan’s old catchphrase of “trust, but verify.”

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            “An example, the EPA must certify an engine before it can be sold as a vehicle on public roads.

            This is on the EPA’s own website:

            “Anyone wishing to sell an engine or vehicle within the United States must demonstrate compliance with the CAA and all applicable EPA regulations. Upon adequate representation of conformity by the manufacturer and possibly confirmatory testing by EPA, EPA may issue a Certificate of Conformity which provides authorization for production and sales within the United States. “

            You don’t understand what you have copied.

            The EPA publishes a spec, like “can’t have higher than X PPM of NOx, Y PPM of CO,” etc. Then THE CARMAKER tests their engines and confirms that they meet the spec of the EPA.

            The key part is “Upon adequate representation of conformity by the manufacturer AND POSSIBLY CONFIRMATORY TESTING BY EPA”

            IOW, the manufacturer says “we meet the spec” and occasionally the EPA verifies that claim by doing its own testing, but overall the car maker is attesting that it meets the spec put forth by the EPA, the EPA is not testing cars before they’re sold except occasionally to keep them on their toes, like an IRS audit.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            An example of how this works in real life.

            The Tesla Model S was introduced to the US market in the summer of 2012.

            The crash test was not performed until the summer of 2013, a bit more than one year later. By the time that the test was performed, thousands of units had already been delivered to customers.

            I’m pretty sure that Tesla Motors would have been badly hurt if it had been forced to delay the launch by more than a year just for the sake of a crash test result. The company was better off with a “voluntary compliance” system that allowed it to generate revenue without the initial blessing of a government official.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            S2k Chris,

            It doesn’t work like that at all for the EPA.

            You don’t just “promise” to make an engine comply and then the EPA gets to verify after the fact when they do an audit.

            The manufacturer actually has to pay the EPA fees for them to test the engine and certify it. There is also a certificate on conformity that’s issued.

            It’s nothing like the IRS with individual tax returns.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            ” S2k Chris,

            It doesn’t work like that at all for the EPA.

            You don’t just “promise” to make an engine comply and then the EPA gets to verify after the fact when they do an audit.

            The manufacturer actually has to pay the EPA fees for them to test the engine and certify it. There is also a certificate on conformity that’s issued.”

            Nope, you’re wrong.

            From http://www.epa.gov/oms/testdata.htm

            “Certification Emission Test Data
            All new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. must be certified to meet federal emission standards. This is accomplished by performing laboratory tests on pre-production vehicles. Most testing is performed by manufacturers at their own facilities. EPA audits the data from this testing and performs its own testing on some of these vehicles to confirm the manufacturers’ results. All of this test data is available to the public for review and analysis.”

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The EPA tests only some engines, not all of them. And it does not test them before the fact.

            What is required is that OEMs have to conduct the emissions testing and self-report the results before the fact. (In that sense, the government is “clearing” vehicles in that tests do have to be completed first, even though the government does not conduct the tests.)

            New cars in the US have to be sold with a Monroney sticker, which includes reporting the fuel economy results.

            This does not apply to crash testing. OEMs do not have report crash test results before selling cars. Not all cars are crash tested, and cars are offered for sale before they are crash tested.

          • 0 avatar
            Crosley

            “Certification Emission Test Data
            All new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. must be certified to meet federal emission standards. This is accomplished by performing laboratory tests on pre-production vehicles. Most testing is performed by manufacturers at their own facilities. EPA audits the data from this testing and performs its own testing on some of these vehicles to confirm the manufacturers’ results. All of this test data is available to the public for review and analysis.”
            ____________________________

            Um, this sounds exactly like the EPA requires certification before you can sell to the general public. The first line alone. You can’t skip to the last step of an audit without going through pre-production testing with the EPA.

            Even if some body wants to make the case that the EPA doesn’t have to sign off on emissions compliance first (which is crazy) it’s a stupid game of symantecs, like government can’t stop you from stealing but it can arrest you for stealing.

        • 0 avatar
          jacob_coulter

          “in general, a car maker certifies that its cars meet the standards set by the government, the government does not.”

          My point was that PCH was painting with broad strokes that the government does not ever clear cars for sale. My point was it does on a whole slew of issues, so why not make crash standards one of them.

          But car companies do indeed have things tested and certified before they can legally sell, the example I used was the EPA with engines. There are many others.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            So you want to create more European-style bureaucracy. That’s quite humorous, considering your political bent.

            The US’ “voluntary compliance” approach allows OEM’s to bring cars to market more quickly, since they don’t need a regulator’s blessing prior to selling them.

            The government relies on transparency (publishing the crash test ratings and encouraging consumers to include them in their purchase criteria) and on after-the-fact enforcement to encourage OEM’s to do the right thing.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            What I want is to either get rid of the agency or make it useful.

            Right now we have the worst of both worlds.

            I would gladly trade more oversight if it meant tort and liability reforms to accompany it. I think the car manufacturers would also.

        • 0 avatar
          Lack Thereof

          These jeeps, with or without the recall trailer-hitch “fix” installed, did pass NHTSA rear-impact crash standards and still do.

          NHTSA’s rear-impact test involves being hit dead-on by a flat surface on a 2-ton object moving at 30mph. The Grand Cherokee passes this test with flying colors.

          In the real world, the fronts of cars often can dive under the Jeep’s bumper and impact the gas tank directly. They are allowed to be built this way because the NHTSA has specifically decided not to regulate bumper height on SUVs.

          NHTSA’s reasoning? “The agency has chosen not to regulate bumper performance or elevation for these vehicle classes because of the potential compromise to the vehicle utility in operating on loading ramps and off road situations.”

          America decided, decades ago, that we were going to exempt SUV’s from many on-road safety standards and regulate them as offroad utility vehicles, rather than as passenger vehicles. Now that they’re getting involved in on-road crashes with gory results, we’re acting shocked and appalled, and suing manufacturers for doing exactly what we have allowed them to do.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            This. The Jeep Grand Cherokee met the standards in place at the time. We can’t just go back and decide it is unacceptable after the fact, tragedy or no tragedy.

            If the manufacturer meets the standard in place at the time the car was made and no negligence or mis-assembly is found after some due diligence, they should be indemnified from these kinds of lawsuits.

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        “The US government is not involved in “clearing” cars for sale.”

        On what planet have you been living on?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Interesting discussion above.

    On the point the vehicle was 13 years old at time of the accident: Average vehicle on the road is 11.4 years old. The question of when does a manufacturing no longer become responsible is a good question, but in 2012 a 13 year old vehicle isn’t “old” anymore. It’s barely above average. I’ve been looking at used Ford Probes and the 90 to 92 models still have an open, and honored recall on the motorized seatbelt tracks – these are cars over 20 years old.

    On the point of $150 million: $120 million for the loss of the child is – pretty outrageous. Agreed this will get walked back in appeal or “settled for an undisclosed amount with FCA not admitting fault,” more likely.

    A point no one has brought up: This was old FCA, not new FCA – has the issue or the legal argument been made, “hey, that Chrysler that built that doesn’t exist anymore, legally we’re protected.” Remember, Chrysler went bankrupt like GM, had a managed, pre-packaged reorganization funded by the government due the lack of DIP finance, and was sold to the Italians.

    On the design and why did the government go, “we’re cool with that:” As others noted the NHTSA was more like the honor system, wink, wink, wink back then. Go look at some of the IIHS crash tests on “fire star NHSTA rated vehicles.” The differences are mind blowing – terrifying. This is why the IIHS came to be, because the government standards were ridiculous weak, and I don’t believe focused on rear-impact crash testing at the time. The design was utterly stupid. It is even more egregiously stupid because it mirrored a known issue with another vehicle – the Pinto.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      In its purchase-and-sale agreement, the New GM agreed to accept liability for all recall repairs, regardless of the date of manufacture. It also accepted liability for crashes that occurred following the bankruptcy.

      I was under the impression that the New Chrysler deal was not exactly the same as the New GM’s, but it would appear from this that the date of the crash is relevant.

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      NHTSA has a rear impact and fuel leakage test. It’s conducted with a 30mph, flat front, 2 ton impactor, hitting directly from the rear.

      Cars are allowed to leak up to 1 ounce of fuel as a result of the impact (allowance for filler-neck splash, etc).

      The old Jeep Grand Cherokee still passes this test, even without the recall work performed.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    A driver hit another at high speed and caused a fire resulting in death. The driver is blamed convicted and sent to jail. The company that made the vehicle is blamed for 99% of the outcome?

    In what world is this just? If FCA was to blame how could a 4 year old possibly be valued at $150M?

    Tort reform is long overdue in this country.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      At some point, we have to come to the conclusion that no amount of money is ever going to bring back a dead person, and that society is no better off by making law firms extremely wealthy in pursuit of this.

      Something like a million dollar cap makes a lot of sense.

      If the government wants to fine a company for violating the law, that’s a separate issue.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Cars meet the standards set forth by the government at the time of their manufacture. Lots of cars on the road today are still a potential hazard to their drivers and occupants, yet they were deemed safe at the time of manufacture.

        When my #2 son was with the Highway Patrol, his Crown Vic Cruiser had to be retrofitted with steel braces to keep the gas tank from being punctured in case of a rear-end collision. But not until after several cops had died from exploding gas tanks.

        It was no big deal then, this is no big deal now. Even the Pinto was no big deal, unless you or someone you care about got barbequed.

        The buyers had a choice. They could have bought something else. Cops didn’t have a choice. They were provided with Police Cruisers by their districts.

        This judgment will be appealed and may even be overturned. Almost certainly, the award, if upheld, will be reduced.

        • 0 avatar
          Crosley

          The Crown Victoria suit was absurd in my opinion, it basically said Ford was negligent because it couldn’t take an impact at highway speed of a stationary vehicle. So because a car hits someone at 80mph, it’s Ford’s fault at what happens to the occupants?

          That’s a nearly impossible standard in my opinion, at some point you have to say an accident is so great that you simply cannot expect a manufacturer to design a product that can withstand something like that. What if a suspect had shot a cop and it went through the door? Also negligent on Ford’s part?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            You’re right. But this is America. The Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave and the Nation of Litigation.

            We see this sh!t every day in America with “My Rights Are More Important Than Your Rights” and “My Beliefs Are Better Than Your Beliefs.”

            I bet that our 2012 Grand Cherokee is not immune from gas tank penetration by the rear suspension if an accident was violent enough.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            This. If we go down this road I am going to know several wealthy folKs since AM General knowingly built a combat vehicle that couldn’t take hold up to an anti tank mine going off under it.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        A million sounds a bit low to me. But I do think that there should be a standard amount attached to a life lost due to negligence, preferably a scaled amount based on age and health. Simply prove the negligence, and collect an easily determinable amount.

        If the corporation deserves further fines or punishment, so be it. But it shouldn’t go to the family or lawyers.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “A driver hit another at high speed…”

      What makes it so egregious and infuriating is it was not a high speed crash, but at a relatively low speed. A direct hit to the fully exposed tank. I don’t buy the OEM did not see the obvious danger.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Well, Toyota was fined $150M for a stuck pedal in car with non-manufacture installed mats. This one sounds about right.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    When did the opinion on law change regarding the culpability of drivers who rear end others?.
    For almost as long as there have been car accidents,it has been the firm belief that if you are not driving with due care and attention and you manage to drive into a stationary object (towit,another car) you are at fault.
    So the car caught fire…so what?. the “car” which hit the back of the jeep was in fact a pick up truck and it must have hit the jeep pretty hard to puncture the tank.
    Daimler, who probably had some design input in the jeep range, built hundreds of thousands of cars prior to 1975 with fuel tanks in the same place ,and these were mounted in such a fashion as to drop under the car and remain largely intact in an accident.It was only after extensive research (read: crash testing) that they determined that it was OK to mount a tank in that position. After all it was Bela Berenyi,in his capacity as safety engineer/inventor at Daimler Benz who invented the crumple zone and other things.
    So how did the jury manage to find that it was Jeeps fault that the vehicle was involved in a crash. Did they have the benefit of ESP and could see this tragedy occurring in the distant future and decided not to tell the owners when they were considering a jeep to buy?
    Did one of the plaintiffs legal reps get word to the jury that 150 big ones would be great? this would of course be great for any legal firm, many of whom insist the plaintiffs take out a loan to cover legal costs before starting work. In most cases the legal firm will adjust the “prize” to suit themselves and the plaintiffs will be lucky to see a small amount of the fabulous figure .
    To me the real villain is the driver of the truck. He has gotten of scot free in terms of the jury’s decision. There was no mention of why he rammed the jeep or his physical and mental condition or the mechanical condition of the truck …which may have been a wreck with poorly maintained brakes ,he could even have been under the influence of something .
    So… why was it determined,so strongly, that it was Chryslers fualt?

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      Why was it determined to be Chrysler’s fault? Because Chrysler issued a recall for this issue. The existence of the recall is all the evidence a good lawyer needs to pin the blame on Chrysler.

      “See, judge, even the company who built these vehicles admits there was a design flaw!”

      It doesn’t matter if the other guy was driving a semi and hit them at 80 mph. Chrysler admitted they had a design flaw when they voluntarily ordered the recall.

      This is why automakers are so reluctant to issue recalls – it expands their liability.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        NHTSA’s mandate is that the cars are safe. From NHTSA’s standpoint, a vehicle that is prone to burning is not safe and therefore not in compliance. Compliance goes beyond violating specific rules; the rules are outcome-oriented, not just process-oriented.

        The trailer hitch for the Jeeps was a compromise that came out of what were initially secret meetings that included Sergio Marchionne and Ray LaHood. If NHTSA had its way, a lot more would have been required, but I would guess that NHTSA’s fix would have cost well over $1 billion and severely hurt the company, hence the cheaper trailer hitch option.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        “Why was it determined to be Chrysler’s fault? Because Chrysler issued a recall for this issue. The existence of the recall is all the evidence a good lawyer needs to pin the blame on Chrysler.”

        I see it the other way around. Chrysler issued a recall because this had happened often enough that they knew the lawsuits were going to start getting really expensive. It was certainly made obvious to the jury that Chrysler was negligent in not doing it well before 2012. By 2013, it had probably been many years since they first started crunching the numbers on whether they should recall or just continue to pay out for the resulting deaths.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Jeep will be OK no matter what, but I’m wondering about the driver stuck with a $1.5 million judgment against him (that pesky 1% remaining). His insurance may not cover that amount, and his financial life is in purgatory until the matter is cleared.

    I rear-ended a car in 1992 ($800 damage to a new Accord), and since the driver’s back hurt a year later (not then), I was served with papers exactly a year after the accident. They stated I was being sued for an amount “in excess of $25,000”. The lawsuit prevented me from refinancing a 9.5% mortgage when rates were dropping like a rock. I could not sell my house, buy a house, or get a loan, because the banks don’t know how high the settlement will actually be. My credit was radioactive. IIRC, the case was settled in 1994 with my insurance company (same as his insurance company) paying him $15k to go away.

    My point is that although the other driver did the hitting (don’t know the details of the accident), they are also going to suffer financially and emotionally for a long time.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    With that much money at stake legal eagles are cheap. These always get settled for much much less as juries always make mistakes somewhere. Delay long enough and the demands drop like a rock. It is horrible that someone lost a child in a wreck but money does not replace a child.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    This $150 million award is an outlier. It is not typical of other cases. I would be surprised if it holds up on appeal. Actually, I would expect the parties to quietly get together and settle on a figure that is less than $150 million but still large.

    I’m thinking of the person who rear-ended the car and was tagged with only 1% responsibility. His/Her immediate reaction was probably – I dodged a bullet on that one; then the math brain kicked in. Hey wait, 1.% of 150 million is $1.5 million. I only had $250k insurance. Oh F—.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Dunno if I’d use the word “outlier” for this one. Next door to Georgia, an Alabama jury just awarded a tidy windfall for a Yamaha Rhino rollover “victim” (little two seat ATV, tippy looking thing when you see one in person or in a picture).

      I think I’ll get rich off the people who made my childhood bicycle. Pain and suffering for skinned knees, you know. The manufacturer SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that bicycles are hard to balance when you’re a little kid.


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