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Jeep Grand Cherokee — Evaluating the Value of Life


Are 1993 – 2004 model years of Jeep Grand Cherokees killing people?

Is Chrysler’s handling of the potential problem with the Jeep Grand Cherokee eerily reminiscent of Ford’s Pinto?

Did Chrysler also consult the “bean counters” to determine what a recall would cost them as that relates to the total cost of deaths from their product?

Was it cheaper to risk lives than institute a recall?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has instituted an investigation to determine whether the design and positioning of the Grand Cherokee’s fuel tank may be causing unnecessary fires and resulting in deaths by drivers of the 1993 – 2004 Jeep Cherokee.

The Grand Cherokee was on the Car and Driver list of the Ten Best models in 1993 and was Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year for 1993. It also was Peterson’s 4×4 in years 1993, 1996, 1999, and 2001.

In October of 2009, though, the Center for Auto Safety filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including a detailed analysis of the design and placement of the gas tank in 1993 – 2004 model Grand Cherokees.

The petition included the following grisly statistics:

  • 172 fatal fire crashes involving the Grand Cherokee
  • 254 fatalities

This compares to the Ford Pinto – the “poster child for how to not handle a product defect – at 38 crashes with 26 fatalities.

In November of 2009, ABC reported some of the experiences with the fuel tank problems with the Grand Cherokee.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has an exposed plastic fuel tank located below the bumper and behind the rear axle. Because of the positioning of the fuel tanks, they are particularly susceptible to perforation or shearing in rear end impacts as slow as just 25MPH

Susan Klein died in a crash. She was struck at approximately 25 mph and found in the passenger side, burned to death. She apparently was frantically trying to escape the raging inferno by exiting through the passenger door. She tragically left two children without a mother and a husband without his wife.

The Center for Auto Safety maintains that Chrysler has known about this defect and has been trying to quietly dispose of cases: “The design is so bad that Chrysler frequently settles lawsuits without extensive discovery and subject to confidentiality agreements.”

This is an example of the need for checks and balances. In this case, even the threat of lawsuits did nothing to cause Chrysler to demonstrate responsibility for the problem. As a result of confidential settlements the manufacturer was shielded from the needed publicity brought on by attorneys bringing evidence into the public eye. Even the Center for Auto safety’s well documented petition required the government nearly a year before taking only the step of opening an investigation.

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