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Court of Appeals affirms Walden v. FCA case

By Powell Cobb

Managing Editor

The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed Decatur County Superior Court Judge Kevin Chason’s ruling on the Walden v. Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, where the parents of Remington Walden were awarded $40 million for the death of their son in a car accident in 2012.

After the original verdict was made in April 2015 awarding damages of $150 million to Walden’s parents, Chason lowered the amount to $40 million. FCA appealed the verdict in August 2015.

The Court of Appeals’ affirmation keeps Chason’s verdict intact.

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.

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 considering our legal options, including asking the Georgia Supreme Court to review this decision,” FCA said. “This tragic crash was 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.  A thorough analysis of rear impact crash data indicates the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee is not defective and its fuel system does not pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.  In fact, 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.”

Plaintiff lawyer Jeb Butler said Walden’s parents are appreciative of the Court of Appeals’ decision.

“It is simply unbelievable that FCA continues to deny this design is defective—a design the industry has known for decades,” plaintiff lawyer Jim Butler added.