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Chrysler Ordered to Pay $150 Million in Jeep Fire Deaths

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 4/3/2015 Kelly Pleskot

A jury awarded $150 million to a family whose 4-year-old son died in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a rear fuel tank that caught fire during a crash. At the end of the trial, Chrysler was deemed not only responsible for the death but also responsible for failing to warn customers of the risks of its rear fuel tanks.

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Back in 2013, Chrysler recalled 1.56 million Jeep SUVs with rear fuel tanks, including 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002- 2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs. After fighting with government safety regulators, Chrysler was able to deny requests for recalling more vehicles, instead bringing out a "customer satisfaction campaign" for 1999-2004 Grand Cherokees. Previously, Chrysler has denied a safety issue with the fuel tanks, saying the problems associated with the vehicles in question "occur less than once for every million years of vehicle operation." Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne gave testimony in the trail, saying that regulators never found a defect in the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

But in the end, the jury in Decatur County, Ga., said Chrysler acted with "reckless and wanton disregard" and ordered the automaker to pay 99 percent of damages. The driver who rear-ended the family's vehicle was ordered to pay the remaining 1 percent. In a statement released this week, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it will consider appealing the verdict.

1998-and-1999-jeep-grand-cherokee© Provided by MotorTrend 1998-and-1999-jeep-grand-cherokee

"It is unfortunate that under Georgia Law the jury was prevented from taking into account extensive data submitted to NHTSA during a three year investigation, which included more than 20 years of rear impact accident data for tens of millions of vehicles," the statement read. "This and other information provided the basis for NHTSA’s determination that the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee did not pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety."

Source: Reuters, FCA

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