Georgia Jury Orders Jeep To Pay $150M For Role In 2012 Fatal Accident
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.
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?
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.
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.
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---.