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Court Allows Evidence of Previous Accidents Involving Jeep Vehicles in Wrongful Death Case Against Chrysler

On March 6, 2012, an woman was driving her four-year-old nephew to a tennis lesson when she was hit by another car. As the woman was waiting to make a left-hand turn, a pickup truck crashed into the back of the car. The gas tank of the Grand Cherokee the woman was driving, which was located behind the rear axle, was punctured as a result of the collision. Soon afterward, gas began to leak, causing the Jeep to catch fire. The woman was able to escape, but tragically she could not save her nephew, who was in the backseat.

Grand CherokeeThe child’s parents filed a lawsuit against Chrysler, alleging that it acted with a reckless or wanton disregard for human life in its design or sale of the Grand Cherokee and breached a duty to warn the public of the danger. The case went to trial, and the jury found in favor of the parents. On appeal, Chrysler argued the court should not have allowed the jury to hear evidence about 17 other rear-end collisions involving Jeeps. In Chrysler Group LLC v. Walden, a Georgia appeals court found the trial court properly allowed the jury to hear the evidence.

To support the claim that Chrysler knew of the danger of the gas tank’s location, the parents submitted evidence of 17 other crashes involving Jeeps in which the Jeeps were rear-ended and gas leaked. In those cases, the fuel tanks were also located behind the rear axle. In those incidents, the Jeep was rear-ended, and fuel escaped from the tank. The parents also presented evidence that Chrysler had notice of those crashes before this tragic crash occurred.

Evidence of Substantially Similar Incidents

Under Georgia law, in product liability claims, a party can introduce evidence of other incidents involving the same product to show the defendant had notice, as long as the incident was “substantially similar” to the incident at issue. To show an incident was substantially similar, a plaintiff must demonstrate the products in the incidents have a common design, there was a defect, and there was causation.

Here, Chrysler argued the court incorrectly found a common design and causation. It pointed out 13 of the other incidents involved different Jeep models with different designs. However, the appeals court noted that in each of those incidents, the gas tank was located 11 inches from the back of the vehicle and hung down about six inches. One of Chrysler’s executives also admitted that tank-related fires in one Jeep model caused Chrysler to investigate the other models. On the issue of common causation, the plaintiffs presented expert testimony that all of the incidents were caused by a rear impact that caused the Jeep’s gas tank to leak. As a result, the appellate court found the court properly admitted the evidence of the other incidents, and the verdict was upheld.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Atlanta

Serious injuries can take a toll on an accident victim, both emotionally and financially. Whether you are hurt in a motor vehicle collision, on someone else’s property, or in another accident, you should retain an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer. The attorneys at the McAleer Law Firm give each case the personal attention and care that it deserves. We are experienced in personal injury and wrongful death claims, and we diligently investigate each matter and fight for our clients’ rights. Contact us at 404-622-5337 or through our online form today.

See More Posts:

Family Injured in Car Accident Barred from Challenging Inconsistent Damages Awards, Due to Failure to Object to Alleged Error at Trial, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, December 29, 2016.

Georgia Court of Appeals Finds in Plaintiff’s Favor in Nursing Home Slip-and-Fall Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, January 10, 2017.