Court denies motion for new trial, orders damage reduction in Chrysler v. Walden case

Published 12:11 pm Monday, July 27, 2015

The Superior Court of Decatur County ordered a major reduction in damages awarded to the plaintiffs in the case between FCA US, LLC and the parents of Remington Cole Walden after denying the defendant’s motion for a new trial last Friday.

Should they choose to accept the denial for a new trial, FCA US, LLC is ordered to pay $40 million in damages, including $30 million for the wrongful death of Walden, 4, who died in vehicle fire in March 2012, and $10 million for the pain and suffering.

The court originally ordered FCA US, LLC pay $150 million in damages to parents Lindsay Newsome Strickland and James Bryan Walden after a jury in April found the vehicle company 99 percent responsible for their son’s death. Now, after hearing the court’s remittitur, the plaintiffs stated they plan to file a notice accepting the $40 million

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Walden 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. 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.

FCA US, LLC, filed a motion for a new trial in May, claiming the jury’s verdict is contrary to law, contrary to the evidence, strongly against the weight of the evidence and is the product of improper evidence and argument.

The court found FCA’s arguments for a new trial to be without merit, stating, “The Court saw nothing to indicate, nor has it been presented with persuasive evidence or argument to suggest, that the jurors were ‘inflamed’ or ‘irrational,’” according to the order.

“The reduction in the damage awards does not cure the many errors that tainted this verdict and denied FCA US a fair trial,” said Michael Palese, legal representative for FCA US, LLC. “We are considering our legal options.”

During the court hearing for the motion for a new trial on July 14, plaintiff’s attorney Jim Butler stated he would accept the damage be lowered to $40 million for the wrongful death verdict and $10 million for pain and suffering. Judge J. Kevin Chason lowered the wrongful death verdict damages to $30 million.

Attorneys Jim and Jeb Butler could not be contacted because they are out of the country.

We will publish additional information upon receiving the plaintiff’s notice to accept the remittitur of $40 million.