A jury in the US state of Georgia has ordered Chrysler to pay $150 million to the family of a 4-year-old boy that was killed when the Jeep Grand Cherokee he was riding in was rear-ended and exploded into flames.
Jurors decided Thursday that the automaker had acted with reckless disregard for human life when it sold the family of Remington "Remi" Waldon a vehicle with a gas tank mounted behind the rear axle.
The placement of the fuel tanks makes them vulnerable to impacts from behind, which is what happened when a pickup truck slammed into the Jeep that Waldon was riding in.
The jury also condemned the 1999 Jeep's design, saying the placement of the gas tank posed an unnecessary hazard to passengers.
A total of 75 people have been killed by post-crash fires that began after the fuel tank was punctured and ignited, federal documents have shown. Two years ago, Chrysler recalled 2.7 million older-model Jeep Grand Cherokees over concerns about their gas tanks.
After a trial that lasted nine days, jurors placed 99 percent of the blame for Waldon's death on Chrysler and 1 percent on the driver of the pickup. They ruled that the automaker should pay $30 million to Waldon's family for the young boy's pain and suffering and $120 million for the full value of his life, the Associated Press quoted a verdict form as saying.
Chrysler, the maker of Jeep Grand Cherokees, responded to the ruling by saying it was disappointed the court had not allowed it to present evidence that it said showed the placement of the fuel tanks posed no dangers.
"The vehicles are not defective," said Mike Palese, a spokesman for Chrysler's parent company, FCA US.
cjc/rc (AP, AFP)