A jury has ordered Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to pay the family of young Remington Walden $150 million. The 4-year-old boy was burned to death in a 2012 car accident. The jury arrived at their verdict after finding that the automaker was reckless in its design of the gas tank of the 1999 Jeep Cherokee.
This is the first trial against Fiat Chrysler over fires involving older Jeep models that burst into flames after they were struck from behind. Auto products liability plaintiffs claim that the gas tanks, which are some 11 inches from the rear of the vehicle, are not safely situated. Already, at least 75 deaths in almost two decades have been linked to the older Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee. Some 1.5 million have been recalled. The 1999 model in which Walden was riding was not part of the recall.
It wasn’t until the 2005 Jeep models that the gas tanks of these vehicles were relocated to a different location on the car between the rear and front axles. The plaintiff’s legal team argued that the redesign was because the older design was flawed. They accused Fiat of destroying documents regarding the modification to hide the real reason for the fix. The automaker, however, maintains that both the newer and older designs are safe.