Chrysler has been ordered to pay a Georgia family $150 million in damages over the 2012 death of a young boy in a fiery rear-end collision. The automaker acted with “reckless or wanton disregard for human life in the design or sale” of the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the jury found, echoing ongoing concerns over the design of past models’ fuel tanks.
The verdict in the closely watched nine-day trial comes two years after Chrysler agreed to a massive recall of SUVs made between 1993 and 2007, stemming from concerns that the vehicles’ rear-mounted fuel tanks were susceptible to exploding in rear-end collisions. The vehicle in question was not part of the recall campaign.
Four-year-old Remington Walden of Bainbridge, Georgia, was killed when the Jeep his aunt was driving was struck from behind by a pickup truck, rupturing the fuel tank. The leaking gas ignited, engulfing the car in deadly flames.
The case will likely increase scrutiny over the design of Chrysler SUVs and the breadth of the 2013 recall. A company spokesman said the vehicles were not defective and that Chrysler was prevented in court from presenting data that showed the Jeep was not unreasonably dangerous.