Earlier this year, the Georgia Supreme Court heard an appeal stemming from a 2015 jury verdict against Chrysler Group LLC. The litigation stemmed from a car accident in which a four-year-old child was trapped in the back of a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, after it was involved in a rear-end collision.
At the time of the accident, the child was strapped in a booster seat in the rear of the Jeep, which was waiting to turn left when it was rear-ended. The impact caused a fire, which killed the child. His parents alleged that the placement of the fuel tank caused the fire, and that Chrysler was aware, as early as the 1960s, that the placement of a fuel tank between the rear bumper and the axle could result in a fire during a rear-end collision. Chrysler argued that the death was solely the fault of the other driver.
Prior to the accident, a federal investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had resulted in a recommendation to recall several jeep models, including the one involved in this case. Chrysler, however, ultimately decided to remove the 1999 Jeep Cherokee from the recall list.
After the initial verdict, LexisNexis reported that the Decatur county jury found that Chrysler acted in “reckless or wanton disregard for human life” in the design of the car involved, and that its conduct was the proximate cause of the child’s death. Additionally, the jury found that Chrysler breached its duty to warn of the risks inherent in the vehicle and that its failure to warn was also a proximate cause of the boy’s death.
The verdict included $120 million for the value of the child’s life, and $30 million for pain and suffering. Chrysler was found to be 99% responsible for damages; while the other 1% was placed on the driver of the vehicle that struck the Jeep. The Superior Court Judge decreased this verdict to $40 million.