On March 15, 2018, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld our clients’ victory in Walden v. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, with 9 of 9 justices voting to affirm. Remington Walden was five years old when he lost his life in the collision that gave rise to this case. If FCA had not put the Jeep’s gas tank next to the rear bumper, Remington would be eleven now. During those six years, his parents’ legal war over FCA’s defective gas tank design has sprawled across the country, from Detroit to Washington DC to Atlanta and from Montana to New Jersey. We have won in the Superior Court of Decatur County, the Georgia Court of Appeals, and now the Georgia Supreme Court.
On the evening after the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed, I went to a lawyer event. Word of the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision had leaked out and folks were talking about it. Several lawyers came up to me and asked when I thought FCA would actually pay. They asked if FCA would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. I said I didn’t know. They’d laugh and say, “I’d settle now.”
I kept thinking, No you wouldn’t. Because you never would have gotten here.
It takes guts. The lawyers saying “I’d settle now” would also have talked their clients into settling the case after the Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari. Or after the Court of Appeals denied FCA’s motion for reconsideration, or after our initial win in the Court of Appeals. Or after the trial court denied FCA’s motion for a new trial, or immediately after the jury’s verdict, or after the first week of trial when it had become obvious that FCA was getting clobbered. Or before trial when the court decided to admit evidence of seventeen other Jeep collisions, or when the trial court denied FCA’s motion for summary judgment, or when FCA asked for mediation, or months before trial when FCA tried to use O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68 to make Remington’s parents liable for FCA’s lawyers’ fees. Or before even filing the case. FCA would have happily paid for a confidential settlement that would have kept what it did, and the dangers of this vehicle, a secret.
Our clients wouldn’t relent then, and they won’t relent now. I couldn’t be prouder.