Walden, Chrysler lawsuit reaches verdict

Published 5:24 pm Friday, April 3, 2015

The jury in the Walden v. Chrysler Group case returned a verdict Thursday evening determining Chrysler 99 percent at fault for the death of Remington Cole Walden.

The verdict was $30 million for Walden’s pain and suffering and $120 million for the full value of Walden’s life, totaling $150 million.

Walden, 4, was riding in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee with his aunt on March 6, 2012, when the vehicle was rear ended and exploded in flames.

Email newsletter signup

He was unable to escape and died in the fire. Brian Harrell, the driver of the vehicle that rear-ended Walden’s Jeep, was sentenced for vehicular homicide and reckless driving in May 2012. The jury found Harrell 1 percent at fault for Walden’s death.

Plaintiffs claimed that an exposed gas tank on Walden’s Jeep, located 11 inches from the back of the car and hanging down six inches, was the cause of the fire when it ruptured after the collision.

The evidence was undisputed that Remington died from burn injuries, according to the plaintiff’s lawyers.

“FCA US is disappointed and will consider an appeal of this verdict,” Michael Palese of FCA U.S. said. “It is unfortunate that under Georgia Law, the jury was prevented from taking into account extensive data submitted to NHTSA during a three-year investigation, which included more than 20 years of rear impact accident data for tens of millions of vehicles.  This and other information provided the basis for NHTSA’s determination that the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee did not pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.”

Walden’s parents, Lindsay Newsome Strickland and James Bryan Walden, filed the suit.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to represent Lindsay and Bryan,” Jim Butler of Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak LLP said. “They are very pleased with the verdict and hope it will help people realize the dangers posed by these rear gas tank Jeeps.”

The nine-day trial was held at the Decatur County Courthouse before Judge J. Kevin Chason.

Plaintiffs were represented by Jim Butler of Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak (Atlanta and Columbus, Georgia) and Jeb Butler of Butler Tobin (Atlanta, Georgia), George Floyd (Bainbridge, Georgia), Cathy Cox (formerly of Bainbridge and currently President of Young Harris College in Young Harris, Georgia), and David Rohwedder of Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak, ably assisted by paralegals Beth Glen and Kate Dondero, Ray Davis, IT Specialist and investigator Nick Giles.

Chrysler was represented by Brian Bell and Anthony Monaco of Swanson Martin & Bell (Chicago, Illinois); Diane Owens, Terry Brantley, and Alicia Timm of Swift Currie (Atlanta, Georgia); Sheila Jeffrey and Brian Westenberg of Miller Canfield (Detroit, Michigan); Erika Z. Jones of Mayer Brown (Washington, DC); Alan DeGraw of Chrysler (Auburn Hills, Michigan); and Bruce W. Kirbo Jr. (Bainbridge, Georgia).

Read the verdict form here.