Last week, Georgia’s highest court unanimously rejected Fiat Chrysler’s latest attempt to throw out a $40 million verdict that was rendered on behalf of the parents of a 4-year-old boy who was burned to death in a Jeep Grand Cherokee manufactured by the company, according to The Post Searchlight.
In 2012, Remington “Remi” Walden was riding in the back seat of his parent’s 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee when they were hit from behind, causing the Jeep to burst into flames. Remi was trapped inside and burned to death. Following a nine-day trial in 2015, a verdict for $150 million was returned – $30 million for Remi’s pain and suffering and $120 million for his life. The trial judge lowered to verdict to $40 million, but Chrysler appealed. The following year, the Court of Appeals rejected Chrysler’s claims “that irrelevant evidence had been introduced during the trial to sway the jury.” It was that ruling that the Georgia Supreme Court upheld, keeping the $40 million verdict in place.
This month, the Waldens mark the sixth anniversary of their son’s tragic death.
The Jeep that killed Remi had a rear fuel tank and in 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommended recalling the model, Law360 reported. But after Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne had a meeting “with two political appointees heading NHTSA, the 1999 Jeep Cherokee model was excluded from the recall,” Law360 explained. Three years after Remi was killed, in July 2015, the agency slapped Chrysler with a then-record $105 million penalty for not properly executing the safety recalls of more than 11 million defective vehicles, including older Jeeps, like the Waldens’, with fuel tanks located in the rear part of the vehicles.
Like, Remi, Beasley Allen clients Bud and Mary Scannavino’s daughter Erica was also burned alive in her Jeep Cherokee. In July 2017, Scannavino was trapped in her burning Jeep after a rear-end collision, similar to the Waldens’ crash. The impact caused the fuel tank of the Jeep Cherokee to fail because it is located in the crush zone behind the vehicle’s rear axle. Fuel leaking from the crushed rear-mounted fuel tank quickly engulfed the vehicle in flames from a post-crash fire.
Four months after their daughter perished, Beasley Allen filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the Scannavinos. The lawsuit, also filed in a Georgia court, seeks to hold Chrysler and Horizon Global Corporation and Horizon Global Americas Inc., the designers and manufacturers of a trailer hitch on Scannavino’s Jeep, accountable for the design defects that contributed to her death, and alleges negligence and failure to warn.
Court records introduced in the Walden case shows that Chrysler has known about, but denied, the decades-old lethal defect that remains in many of its Jeep vehicles today, threatening even more lives.
The Post Searchlight