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.
The 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.