A jury in Georgia ruled against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in a lawsuit involving a wrongful death suit brought up by a family who lost their four-year-old child in a car crash. The family maintained the death was a result of a faulty and dangerous rear-mounted fuel tank that ruptured following the impact in their 1999 Jeep Cherokee. The family was awarded $150 million in damages, 99 percent of which are to be paid by Chrysler, with the remaining one percent to be paid out by the driver of the other vehicle that caused the crash. This is just one in a long list of warnings, recalls, and court cases brought up against Chrysler for dangerous rear-mounted fuel tanks.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) originally opened up investigation for potential fuel system hazards in the 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup nearly five years ago, an investigation which resulted in a report detailing 2.2 million SUVs could potentially be dangerous due to their rear-mounted plastic fuel tank. According to investigations, the tank was easily punctured in rear-end crashes, which could lead to large fires.
NHTSA expanded the investigation to eventually cover a whopping 5.1 million SUVs on the road, including the 1993 to 2001 Jeep Cherokee, and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty. At the time of the investigation, NHTSA reported the fuel system problem has resulted in 26 vehicle fires, 46 injuries, and 15 fatalities. Following the lawsuit, NHTSA has linked over 50 deaths to various Chrysler fuel tank issues.
Chrysler challenged NHTSA’s 2013 request to issue a recall for 2.7 million Jeep vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty. Chrysler refused, stating the SUVs produced during the time span were up to code and met all safety measures during the time of their manufacture. Chrysler eventually conceded and issued a voluntary recall for the 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Liberty.
Chrysler is considering appealing the jury’s verdict. In a statement, the company said today, “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. 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.”