Corporate Business | April 02 2015

Facts matter

Sadly, the citizens of a southern Georgia town who performed their civic duty this week in the tragic case of a young boy’s traffic death were prevented from seeing or hearing critical evidence.

Four-year-old Remington Walden was killed when a pickup truck traveling at highway speed slammed into the rear of the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee in which he was riding. In stark contrast, the Grand Cherokee was traveling between zero and six miles per hour as its driver prepared to make a turn.

Fire ensued and plaintiffs’ attorneys argued the placement of the Jeep’s fuel tank was to blame. There is an extensive database of statistics to refute this claim, but the actual contents of this database were inadmissible under Georgia law.

Let that sink in.

FCA US LLC was allowed to tell jurors about the existence of relevant information, but not the information itself. Had a full airing the facts been conducted, jurors would have learned:

  • Tragedies of the same type occur more frequently in 57 other vehicles on U.S. roads
  • Twenty-one of the 57 have the same fuel-tank placement as the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • None of the above vehicles was ever subject to a safety recall for fire-related rear-end crashes

So compelling is this information that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was eventually moved to drop a safety recall request leveled against the 1999 Grand Cherokee.

FCA US and its more than 14,000 employees extend their deepest sympathies to the parents of young Remington Walden. But crashes of this kind – though they occur less than one time for every million years of vehicle operation, according to unheard evidence – are a sorrowful reality.