Fiat Chrysler Loses Bid For New Trial In Wrongful Death Case Involving Jeep Fire

Fiat Chrysler’s woes related to millions of Jeeps that could catch fire after being rear-ended continued today as a judge rejected the company’s request for a new a trial in the wrongful death case of a four-year-old boy.

A Georgia judge denied the car maker’s motion to retry the case in which a jury earlier this year ordered the company to pay $150 million to the boy’s family after ruling that Chrysler acted with reckless disregard for human life by selling the family a 1999 Jeep with a gas tank mounted behind the rear axle.

Superior Court Judge J. Kevin Chason wrote in his decision [PDF] to deny the motion that the evidence against FCA was “overwhelming” in the original case.

In the original lawsuit, the family argued that the fire was a direct result of the gas tank’s poor position, as it was located in a “crush zone” behind the rear axle and knew the location was dangerous.

In March 2012, a pickup truck slammed into the rear-end of a Jeep carrying the young boy. According the suit, the collision caused a fuel leak and the Jeep caught fire, killing the boy.

Fiat Chrysler [FCA] argued in its motion for the retrial that jurors ignored the court’s directions and that they were given outside guidance with regard to the amount the company should be required to pay.

“This Court finds no merit in FCA’s assertion that the jury acted from ‘passion’ or ‘prejudice’,” the judge wrote in his ruling. “The Court observed the jurors throughout the trial, as they delivered their verdict, and as the Court polled them. This Court saw nothing to indicate, nor has it been presented with persuasive evidence or argument to suggest, that the jurors were ‘inflamed’ or ‘irrational.'”

The automaker had also argued that cross-examination by the family’s attorneys was improper.

“The Court notes that with respect to many of the items of which FCA is now critical, either no objection was made at trial at all, or the object was not timely or proper,” the judge ruled. “FCA may not now claim error as to such items. This Court listened carefully to the entirety of the trial, including those examinations, statements, and arguments now criticized by FCA, and has reviewed the trial transcript, and finds that FCA’s criticisms are unfounded.”

While the company lost its bid for a new trial, the judge did reduce the amount Fiat Chrysler must pay the family to $40 million. The automaker must still agree to the reduction, CBS News reports.

“The reduction in the damage awards does not cure the many errors that tainted this verdict and denied FCA US a fair trial. We are considering our legal options.” Fiat spokesman Michael Palese said in a statement to CBS News.

Wednesday’s decision comes just days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it has imposed a $105 million fine against Fiat Chrysler for failing to adequately address 23 safety recalls, including the 2013 Jeep recall.

Fiat Chrysler denied retrial in boy’s Jeep fire death [CBS News]

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