Trial with Chrysler wraps up first week

Published 7:21 pm Friday, March 27, 2015

Opening arguments were heard at the Decatur County Courthouse this week for the civil case involving the tragic death of Remington Walden after a car accident in 2012.

Walden and his aunt were riding in a 1999 Jeep Cherokee when the vehicle was rear-ended, causing an unprotected gas tank to rupture and set the Jeep aflame. Walden was unable to escape and died in the fire. He was 4-years-old.

Bryan and Lindsay Walden of Bainbridge filed suit against Chrysler, the makers of the Jeep Cherokee, in the Superior Court of Decatur County in July 2012, blaming them for the placement of the gas tank that caused the death of their son.

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The Waldens are represented by Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peek and Bainbridge attorney George Floyd.

“My clients want people to know about the danger, that’s why they’re going to trial,” attorney Jim Butler said.

The jury for the trial is comprised of 11 women and one man. Butler said he expects the trial to finish sometime next week.

“FCA US wishes to express its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Remi Walden for their tragic loss in a severe crash caused by a reckless pick-up truck driver who slammed into the rear of the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee at a high rate of speed,”  Michael Palese, legal communications manager for Chrysler Group LLC said. “The energy level of the impact was substantially higher than the applicable federal requirement for rear impacts, which the Jeep Grand Cherokee met. Indeed, the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards, including the FMVSS 301 fuel tank integrity standard, and has an excellent safety record. A thorough analysis of rear impact crash data indicates that the1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee is no more likely to experience fire as a result of a rear impact than peer vehicles.”

According to a response to Chrysler’s motion for a summary judgment filed Oct. 23, 2014, Chrysler knew the gas tank was in the “crush zone” of the model Jeep, despite crash tests revealing the tank was vulnerable if impacted from behind.

“Because Chrysler knew its rear gas tanks were vulnerable to rear impacts and were in the crush zone but sold the Grand Cherokee anyway, Chrysler is liable for willful and wanton conduct,” the response reads. “Becayse Chrysler refused to warn anybody about the Jeep’s ‘vulnerab[ility] to rear impact,’ Chrysler is liable for failure to warn.”