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Court Upholds $40 Million Verdict Against Chrysler after Gas Tank Explodes, Killing Young Child

Posted in Firm News

Late last month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion affirming a $40 million jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a wrongful death case against car-manufacturing giant Chrysler. In the case, the court rejected all of Chrysler’s alleged claims of error, finding that the lower court’s decisions were sound and that the jury’s award amount was not excessive.

The Facts of the Case

This tragic case involves a young boy who was killed when the car in which he was riding as a rear passenger was struck from behind by another motorist. In 2012, the young boy was with his aunt in her Jeep Grand Cherokee when a pick-up truck rear-ended them. The force from the collision caused the Jeep’s gas tank to rupture. Gas began to leak, and the vehicle caught fire. The boy’s aunt was able to escape the burning vehicle, but she was unable to rescue the young boy in the back seat.

The boy’s parents filed a wrongful death case against Chrysler, the manufacturer of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The parents claimed that the placement of the gas tank was negligent, increasing the chance that it would rupture when the vehicle was struck from behind. Additionally, the parents claimed that Chrysler knew of the dangers associated with the gas tank’s location but continued to manufacture Jeep Grand Cherokees without making any design changes.

After the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs for roughly $150 million. In a post-trial motion, the court reduced the award amount to $40 million. Chrysler appealed both the jury’s decision to hold the company liable for the death of the boy and also the significant amount of damages issued by the jury.

On appeal, all of the claims of error were dismissed. Chrysler’s main claim regarding the sizable damages award was that it was a product of passion or prejudice, motivated by a desire to punish the manufacturer, rather than a rational estimation of the non-economic damages sustained by the family. Chrysler’s argument was essentially that the jury’s award amount was equivalent to a punitive damages award, although the family did not seek punitive damages. The court, however, was not receptive to Chrysler’s claims, holding that there was insufficient evidence to show that the jury was motivated by improper factors. As a result, the jury’s verdict will stand.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product or Vehicle?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a dangerous vehicle or by some other dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation to help you recoup the costs associated with your accident. The skilled New Mexico personal injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have decades of combined experience representing clients in all types of personal injury cases, including wrongful death and product liability claims. Call 505-889-FINE to schedule your free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney today.

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Appellate Court Affirms Trial Judge’s Decision to Dismiss Case Due to Violation of Statute of Limitations, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 3, 2017.

Appellate Court Declines Opportunity to Apply Government Immunity in Bicycle Accident Case Against City, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 11, 2017.