Automobile manufacturer Fiat Chrysler America (FCA) has continuously failed to respond to the danger of older-model Jeep motor vehicles. Select SUVs and trucks have been prone to a high risk of fire and explosion due to a design flaw in the vehicle’s gas tank.
This contentious issue has led to national investigations, multiple lawsuits, and several recalls of select Jeep models. However, FCA has been uncooperative at best – resulting in potentially millions of dangerous vehicles still on the road today.
At Butler Wooten & Peak, we understand the significance of this defect. In 2015, we successfully litigated a lawsuit against FCA for the wrongful death of a 4-year-old boy in a burning Jeep Grand Cherokee – making us the only firm that has reached a favorable judgment against FCA for a product defect.
Our results set us apart. Butler Wooten & Peak, LLP is a long-time leader in auto products cases of all kinds and have won 51 verdicts and settlements over $10 million and 177 verdicts and settlements over $1 million. If you or a loved one have been injured by a defective Jeep, our attorneys are uniquely qualified to fight for justice on your behalf.
4-year-old Remington Walden was killed in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee when it was rear-ended by a pickup truck in March 2012. The sudden impact created a leak in the fuel tank, causing the vehicle to burst into flames, killing the boy stuck in the vehicle.
We filed a lawsuit against FCA on the Walden family’s behalf, alleging that the automobile manufacturer failed to properly warn the family of the potential dangers of driving the Jeep. After years of legal proceedings, the Georgia court ordered FCA to pay $150 million to the Walden family in 2015. Although a lower court reduced damages to $40 million, this represents a significant victory for consumers who have been affected by the defective vehicles.
However, FCA has continued to be ineffective in addressing many of the issues surrounding these vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovered in a 2009 investigation that fuel tanks in the following Jeep models were inherently prone to increased risk of catching on fire:
All of these models had an increased risk of fuel tank damage and subsequent fires due to the location of the tank. Contrary to other SUVs, the plastic gas tanks in these vehicles are directly located behind the rear axle with little to no protection. This, combined with the relatively high rear overhang of the vehicles, leaves the tank vulnerable to damage when struck from behind. This, as a result, presented an unreasonable risk of serious injury or even death from fires in rear-impact crashes.
The NHTSA investigation found that fires caused by rear-impact crashes caused:
Additionally, when compared to other similar vehicles, these Jeep models had a significantly higher rate of fatalities. When measured by fatal rear-end accidents per million registered vehicle years (MRVY), the average similar-model SUV had 0.5 fatal rear-end accidents. By comparison, the Grand Cherokee had 1 fatal accident and the Liberty had 0.9 – twice as many as its peers.
As a result, the NHTSA recommended a full recall of all affected Jeep vehicles in order to fix the defective gas tanks.
However, despite the NHTSA’s recommendation, FCA has not been fully cooperative of these safety measures, maintaining that their vehicles are not inherently defective and dangerous to the drivers.
Additionally, FCA continues to resist lawsuits brought upon them for these incidents. The company has continuously appealed the Georgia court’s 2015 ruling for years, arguing that the vehicles were no more dangerous than other comparable SUVs on the market. In early 2018, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the decision, ruling that “evidence shows that Chrysler had long known that mounting a gas tank behind the rear axle was dangerous.”
Even after the recalls and subsequent fixes, all affected Jeeps still are at an increased risk for fire to this day. Incidents similar to the Walden family’s tragic accident still occur to this day. In September 2017, Vicki Hill of Ohio died after her 2007 Jeep Liberty was rear-ended and subsequently burst into flame. Upon investigation, Hill’s Liberty had the recall hitch installed.
At Butler Wooten & Peak, we believe that FCA has failed to take the proper actions necessary to ensure their customers are safe from harm. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a Jeep fire, please contact us today to discuss your case. We are proud to take on Jeep fire lawsuits, as we believe FCA deserves to be held accountable for their careless actions. As the only law firm to successfully litigate against FCA for a defect, we have an intimate understanding of what it takes to ensure compensation for your damages.
We believe FCA is practicing gross negligence by continuing to ignore these unsafe vehicles, and we want to help you seek justice for the wrongful death of your loved ones.