By: Allan M. Siegel
In the 1970's Ford was rightly derided and attacked for failing to
prevent and remedy a defect in the Ford Pinto that allowed the fuel tank
to be punctured and explode when the car was in a rear-end collision.
Unfortunately, the same type of defect is now resulting in deaths of owners
and passengers in Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Libertys. As of January
2015, the defect had resulted in 56 fatalities in 38 crashes, at least
six of which occurred after the Fiat Chrysler began recalls in June of 2013.
This fatal defect had been overshadowed in recent years by the deadly GM
ignition-switch defect, and the defective Takata Corp. airbags, but new,
and overdue, attention and pressure is being applied to the company following
the verdict from a Georgia jury. The jury found that Chrysler acted with
"reckless or wanton disregard for human life in the design or sale" of a Jeep Grand Cherokee and ordered the company to pay $150 million to
the family of a 4-year old boy who burned to death after a crash in 2012.
The boy was riding in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee when it was struck in
the rear by a pickup truck in 2012. The Jeep's fuel tank ruptured
and caught fire, killing the boy when he was trapped in the vehicle. The
driver of the pickup was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced
to eight years in prison, but the jury found that Chrysler's design was
"99 percent" responsible for the boy's death.
The fire was a result of a defect that is found in 1993-2004 Grand Cherokees
and 2002-07 Libertys. In those models the plastic gas tank is behind the
axles of the vehicles and can be punctured and catch fire when they are
struck from behind. The NHTSA first began investigating the defect in
2009 and in 2013 Chrysler agreed to a compromised recall. Rather than
recall vehicles and actually fix the problem, Chrysler would install a
trailer hitch on the vehicles to mitigate the potential fuel tank explosions.
The obviousness of the inadequacy of this solution caused safety advocates
at the time to decry it as lacking, and the company has been further criticized
for the incredibly low rate of repairs on vehicles with the defect. This
is highlighted by the fact that since the recall was instituted, at least
six people have been killed as a result, including a 23-year-old expectant
mother in Michigan, a 58-year-old man in Virginia, and a Maryland resident.
The personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, and Siegel,
P.C. have spent decades fighting to hold companies accountable for the
defective and potentially deadly products that they release to the public.
Our personal injury attorneys handle product liability and product defect
cases of all kinds. If you believe that you or someone you love has been
injured by a defective vehicle, defective product, or someone's negligent
conduct, please call the attorneys at
Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, and Siegel, P.C.