It was an ordinary day, July 29, 2017, for Cobb County resident Erica Scannavino, until a rear-end crash left her trapped in her burning Jeep Cherokee.
The rear-mounted fuel tank on her 1996 Jeep Cherokee SUV was located in a crash zone and was exposed to a defectively designed, after-market trailer hitch. When Scannavino’s SUV was hit from behind, bolts from the trailer hitch punctured the fuel tank, igniting the gasoline and quickly engulfing the vehicle in flames from a post-crash fire. Scannavino, 32, burned alive.
She was one of the 1.2 million Jeep Cherokee owners who were never warned of the defective fuel tank or the potential for such a horrendous death, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta. Nearly 600,000 of those vehicles are still on the road.
Following Scannavino’s fatal crash, Beasley Allen filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her parents, Bud and Mary Scannavino, to hold the auto manufacturer, Chrysler Group, LLC, and the trailer hitch manufacturer, Horizon Global Corporation and Horizon Global Americas Inc., accountable for design defects that contributed to Scannavino’s death. Beasley Allen lawyer Chris Glover is handling the case for Scannavino’s parents and explains that this type of accident should not result in death.
“The combination of the defectively designed trailer hitch and the placement of the fuel tank on the Jeep Cherokee and other Chrysler vehicles has been one of the most dangerous vehicle-component combinations conceived,” Glover said.
In 2013, Fiat-Chrysler recalled 1.5 million 1993 through 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002 through 2007 Liberty SUVs for the same reason. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) apparently gave the car maker a pass on the Jeep Cherokees, despite it having the same flawed placement of the fuel tank. However, Chrysler’s internal documents dating to as early as 1960 show the automaker was aware that the placement of the fuel tank – behind the rear axle – was a dangerous location. In fact, in 2005, it began placing tanks “midship” or ahead of the rear axle inside the frame rails to offer more protection in the event of a rear crash, according to Carcomplaints.com.
“The fact that the companies have deliberately tried to conceal the danger only intensifies a sickening set of circumstances,” Glover said. “Erica Scannivino died because she didn’t know her SUV was essentially a ticking time bomb – she didn’t get the information she needed that could have saved her life.”