— The Remington Walden crash verdict award of $40 million has been upheld after the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed a Decatur County Superior Court ruling against Fiat Chrysler in the wrongful death of the 4-year-old boy in a Jeep Grand Cherokee
Remington Walden burned to death in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee crash when the SUV was rear-ended, rupturing the gas tank and causing the Jeep to explode into flames.
Remington's family filed the wrongful death lawsuit in 2012 alleging the placement of the gas tank at the extreme rear of the Grand Cherokee caused the tank to rupture, trapping Remi in the back of the SUV.
The trial saw a Chrysler engineer testify the rear gas tank in the Jeep Grand Cherokee is vulnerable to a rear-end crash and that in 1998, the automaker knew the gas tank in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee would be crushed in a crash of that type.
The engineer said in crash tests at 30 mph, the rule was to keep any instruments away from the back 24 inches of the SUVs because Chrysler knew those instruments would be crushed.
The plaintiffs allege Chrysler knew of 17 other crashes where the Jeep gas tanks ruptured prior to Remington Walden's death on March 6, 2012. One of those involved a New Jersey crash in 1998 when a woman escaped the burning Jeep, causing her mother to finally write a warning letter to Chrysler.
In the letter, the mother told the automaker, “In thinking about this afterwards, I can only imagine how horrible a situation it would be if a driver had to remove a child from a car seat, or could not get out of the car within moments.”
The lawsuit alleges the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee gas tank was located only 11 inches from the back of the SUV and hanging six inches below the bottom of the SUV.
The Walden family claims Chrysler knew about the dangers of placing the gas tank in that location and had settled many lawsuits out of court. Remington's case was the first to make it to trial, and by the end the jury ruled Chrysler should pay $150 million for causing Walden's death.
The jury verdict included $120 million for the wrongful death claim and $30 million for the pain and suffering of Remington Walden. The award was later reduced to $40 million, the wrongful death verdict reduced to $30 million and the pain and suffering verdict to $10 million.
The Walden family is represented by Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak LLP.
Fiat Chrysler has spent years answering for its decision to install the Jeep gas tanks so close to the rear of the vehicles, and in June 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finally asked Chrysler to recall 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs.
Chrysler said it didn't believe there was anything wrong with the SUVs and refused to order a recall. But after complaints from customers and safety advocates, Chrysler agreed to recall 1.5 million Jeeps to install trailer hitches to help protect the Jeep gas tanks in rear-end impacts, a remedy Chrysler admitted would do nothing in a severe crash.