Chrysler Ordered to Pay $150M Over Grand Cherokee Fire Death

Apr 03, 2015 05:08 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

A Georgia jury determined that Chrysler was responsible for the death of a four-year-old who was burned alive when a Jeep Grand Cherokee exploded into flames after being rear-ended in a 2012 accident.

Jurors in Decatur County ruled on April 2 that the Chrysler showed "reckless or wanton disregard for human life" when they sold the family of Remington "Remi" Walden a 1999 Jeep equipped with a gas tank mounted behind the rear axle, according to an Associated Press report.

Walden was killed after the Jeep, being driven by his aunt, was rear-ended by a pickup truck in March 2012. The fuel tank started to leak shortly after the car was hit, causing the vehicle to become engulfed in flames.

The lawsuit said that a witness saw Walden struggling to escape his car seat and screaming for help, according to CNN. Walden was on his way to a tennis lesson when the SUV was hit.

The family of the child was awarded $120 million for the full value of his life and $30 million for Remi's pain and suffering, according to the AP report.

Chrysler argued that the driver of the pickup was responsible for the death of the child and that nothing was wrong with the gas tanks.

The jury didn't agree with the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles unit, saying that the pickup's driver was only 1 percent responsible for the boy's death and that Chrysler was 99 percent responsible.

Chrysler has also fought with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the safety of its SUVs.

NHTSA said the gas tanks were at fault in at least 27 accidents that caused fires and 51 deaths, according to CNN. Chrysler refused to recall any vehicles however, maintaining there belief that nothing was wrong with their vehicles.

A settlement was reached between the two eventually with Chrysler agreeing to provide trailer hitches that would provide more protection in the event of a rear-end accident.

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