A California family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in response to a vehicle fire caused by a rear-end collision. The accident claimed the life of the family’s father early last year.
According to CBS Los Angeles the fatal accident took place in Ontario, California, east of LA, in January of 2015. The man was traveling in “a model year 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee.” Within seconds of a rear-end collision “the Jeep burst into flames,” according to the TV station’s report.
At the heart of the case are questions about dangerous products and their design flaws. The model year of the vehicle is one of the most important elements of this tragic case. As the TV station reports, “in June of 2013 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Chrysler to recall earlier model years, specifically Grand Cherokees built between 1993 and 1998 due to concerns about gas tanks catching on fire. But there were no recalls for later model years between 1999 and 2004.” This is significant because those years include models in which the gas tank is positioned directly behind the rear axle – a location that significantly increases the chances of a vehicle fire in the event of even a minor rear-end collision.
Accidents like this raise serious questions for both the corporate world and government regulators. It is legitimate to ask why Jeep made no effort to fix a design flaw in newer models that had led to the product’s recall for earlier years. It is equally relevant to ask why government regulators did not press for a faster and wider recall. In a broader sense it is worth asking why Jeep was building SUVs with gas tanks in that spot in the first place, since evidence going all the way back to the Ford Pinto in the 1970s indicates how dangerous the practice is.
As a Portland wrongful death attorney I have never seen a case quite like this either here in Oregon and across the river in Washington. While the case outlined here is from California, the vehicles in question were sold throughout the country and the issues of dangerous product design that it raises are national in scope. Accountability for these dangerous SUVs and their design flaws needs to begin with the manufacturer, and it needs to be enforced much more vigorously by government at all levels.
CBS Los Angeles: Family files Wrongful Death Suit After Fiery Crash in 2015