Fiat Chrysler Initiating another Appeal over Verdict in Fatal Fire

Fiat Chrysler Initiating another Appeal over Verdict in Fatal Fire
Image: FCA Group
August 17, 2015

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is appealing a judge's decision to uphold a verdict in a trial initiated by a Georgia family after a fatal Jeep fire.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Italian-American automaker is filing the action with the Georgia Court of Appeals after Judge J. Kevin Chason decided that the company would be held entirely responsible for the fatal accident, while reducing damages from $150 million to $40 million.

In March 2012, Remington Walden was riding in the backseat of a 1999 Jeep Cherokee that was rear-ended by a pickup truck. The Jeep's rear fuel tank was leaking, resulting in a fire that proved fatal for the four year old boy. The jury that initially awarded $150 in damages to the Walden family found that Fiat Chrysler acted with reckless or wanton disregard in the design or sale of the vehicle and failed to warn that the vehicle was hazardous.

A Fiat Chrysler spokesman last week reiterated comments made in July to the Wall Street Journal: "The reduction in the damage awards does not cure the many errors that tainted this verdict and denied [the company] a fair trial." The automaker previously argued that the jury acted "from passion and prejudice" when rendering the verdict, largely because of the tactics of the family's lawyers. The company contends that the decision remains grossly excessive and improperly punitive, arguing that the penalty should be reduced to $5 million.

The civil suit is far from Fiat Chrysler's only ongoing issue. In July, the automaker was hit with a record $105 million penalty from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).