Fires & Explosions in Jeeps with Rear Gas Tanks
The 1993-3004 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 1993-2001 Jeep Cherokees, 1997-2007 Jeep Wranglers, and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberties all have gas tanks mounted in the extreme rear, next to the rear bumper. When the Jeeps get hit in the rear, the tanks can rupture and the Jeeps can explode. People can burn alive. That has been happening for decades.
What Fiat Chrysler Automobiles did, and continues to do, with its rear-tank Jeeps is chilling. When we took FCA to trial over these defective Jeeps, the jury found that FCA “acted with reckless or wanton disregard for human life” and returned a verdict of $150,000,000 for our clients. It was the first time any law firm had forced FCA to go all the way to trial.
They are a danger to the people who drive them, most of whom don’t know about the defect. They are danger to the people who ride in them. And they are a danger to people who share the road with them.
What FCA Knew about Jeep Fires
FCA knew before it sold these rear-tank Jeeps that they would catch fire or explode after rear impact. The whole automotive industry, including FCA, had learned about the danger of rear-mounted tanks in the 1970s with the infamous Ford Pinto. But FCA (through its corporate predecessor, Chrysler) sold the Jeeps anyway. FCA warned nobody about the danger and, despite sustained pressure from safety advocates, has refused to buy the Jeeps back or conduct a meaningful recall. As a result, many of these dangerous rear-tank Jeeps remain on the road today.
Our firm has handled multiple cases in which people burned to death inside these rear tank Jeeps. Along with Butler, Wooten & Peak, we are the only firm that has forced FCA to trial on this defect. At the end of the trial, in addition to returning a verdict of $150 million and finding that FCA had acted with “reckless or wanton disregard for human life,” the jury found that FCA had failed to warn of a known danger. In other words, the jury confirmed that FCA knew about this problem, and still failed to keep its customers safe.
FCA’s “Recall” of the Exploding Jeeps
Eventually, FCA couldn’t deny the danger any longer. Following pressure from nonprofits, safety advocates, customers, victims, lawyers, and media, FCA agreed to conduct a recall of at least some of the rear-tank Jeeps. But this would not be an ordinary recall.
In 2013, FCA’s Chairman and CEO, Sergio Marchionne — who had previously told the public that these Jeeps were “absolutely safe” — arranged a private meeting with top government bureaucrats to talk about a recall. The federal Office of Defects Investigation (“ODI”) had already written FCA a letter requesting a recall and announcing that the Jeeps with rear gas tanks contained “defects related to motor vehicle safety.” Marchionne wanted to put a stop to that investigation.
So Marchionne flew from his home in Switzerland to Chicago O’Hare Airport, where he met in private with the United States Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) Administrator, David Strickland. Nobody else was present at the meeting. No agency staff or engineers were present. There were no safety advocates, customers, victims there. The media was not told about the meeting. According to Marchionne’s later testimony, no notes were kept. There were no records at all, he swore.
The three men reached a deal. FCA would invite Jeep owners to bring their Jeeps into a dealership and, if the Jeep didn’t already have an original trailer hitch on it, FCA would give the customer a trailer hitch for free. In return, the government agreed to drop the investigation.
Trailer Hitches & Jeep Fires
There was one problem: the trailer hitch couldn’t protect the tank. In fact, just two years before, a senior FCA engineer named Francois Castaing had testified under oath that the tow package did not protect the tank.
Francois Castaing was absolutely right — the tow package does not protect the tank. In fact, the tow package and trailer hitch receiver only made things worse because when the trailer hitch receiver got hit, it buckled and pierced the exposed, plastic gas tank like an arrow.
Below are three real-life pictures from rear-tank Jeeps that had the trailer hitch receiver that FCA offered as a recall. In each case, the Jeep was hit in the rear, the hitch buckled forward, the buckling hitch speared the gas tank, the Jeep burned, and the driver died in the flames. The gas tanks are no longer visible because they melted in the fires.
Jeeps have been a favorite choice of vehicle for decades. They are admired for their safety and off-road capabilities which is why even the U.S. Government chooses Jeeps to transport military personnel. Unfortunately, there a fatal flaw has been discovered in some of the models.
As a jeep fire lawyer, we have known of cases that involve a minor accident, such as a fender bender, to cause Liberties, Grand Cherokees, and Cherokees to burst into flames. The reason for this is because some models have the gas tank placed in between the back axle and rear bumper. As these models of Jeeps are higher above the ground than other cars, a number of smaller vehicles can pass the rear bumper resulting in colliding with the gas tank.
For many years Chrysler, the owner of Jeep, has been aware of the dangerous effects of placing the gas tank near the rear axle. Even so, they opted to place it here. When an accident happens, and a fire results, the injuries can be catastrophic. You should call a Jeep fire lawyer right away.
Your Legal Rights and Options
We at Butler Law believe that Chrysler should not have placed the gas tank behind the rear axle of some Jeep models. Even minor accidents can cause severe burns, scarring, pain, and death. The models with these types of gas tanks should have been taken off the road, but they were not. Now, thousands of families are using these vehicles thinking they are safe.
If you or your loved ones have been injured in a Jeep fire, please call one of our Jeep fire lawyers right away.
A judge has ordered Chrysler to have to take responsibility for their actions. If you were involved in Jeep fire, the car company may have to compensate you under the following laws:
- Strict Liability Design Defect– Some models of Jeep were found to be defective because of a design that could have been avoided.
- Strict Liability Failure to Warn– Chrysler was aware of the defect and the possibilities of a fire. They should have warned users about this risk before they bought or drove the Jeep.
- Negligence– Chrysler failed to use reasonable care; therefore has been found negligent.
- Breach of Warranty– The Jeeps are not safe to drive; therefore, it is also a breach of warranty.
If Chrysler is found to be liable for any of the above, and there has been an injury or death, you may receive compensation for:
- – Medical care
- – Lost wages
- – Loss of consortium
- – Pain and suffering
- – Disfigurement
- – Punitive damages
At this time, the models of the dangerous Jeeps have not been recalled; however, it is very possible that the publicity from Jeep fire lawsuits will force the company into taking action by recalling all of the makes and models. This means that not only may you recover compensation, but you could make a difference and prevent other families from being injured in a Jeep fire.
There are time limits to filing a lawsuit. Please do not wait. Call a Jeep fire lawyer from Butler Law now.