— A wrongful death lawsuit filed against Chrysler alleges the location of the gas tank and the use of a trailer hitch on a 1996 Jeep Cherokee caused a 32-year-old woman to burn to death.
On July 29, 2017, in Cobb County, Georgia, Erica Scannavino was driving a 1996 Jeep Cherokee equipped with a Reese Towpower Multi-Fit Receiver manufactured by Horizon Global Americas, a company also being sued by the plaintiffs.
Ms. Scannavino was legally stopped to make a left-hand turn when her Jeep Cherokee was struck from behind by a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta.
The Jeep rolled down the shoulder and caught on fire, trapping Erica Scannavino in the Cherokee. The rear-mounted gas tank ruptured and allowed gas to leak and catch fire, engulfing the Jeep and burning the trapped Scannavino alive.
The lawsuit says due to the location of the gas tank and the use of the trailer hitch, Erica suffered extreme fright, shock, physical injury, mental anguish and finally death.
The plaintiffs say Chrysler put the 1996 Jeep Cherokee gas tank in a known crush zone located behind the rear axle, an area the lawsuit alleges is too dangerous in rear-end crashes. Chrysler used the same gas tank locations on certain Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs.
The plaintiffs believe the evidence shows the driver of the VW Jetta caused the wreck and caused Ms. Scannavino’s injuries, but Chrysler caused the fire and ultimately the death of Ms. Scannavino.
The lawsuit says Chrysler failed to warn the public about the allegedly dangerous location of the gas tanks placed in known crush zones in rear-end crashes. Additionally, the automaker allegedly should have warned the public about the dangers of using certain trailer hitches that can contribute to ruptured fuel tanks.
Scannavino's parents claim the automaker has known for years about gas tanks that rupture in Cherokee SUVs.
According to claims made in the lawsuit, Chrysler's own documents going back to the 1960s and 1970s show the automaker knew its vehicles needed to have gas tanks located "midship" ahead of the rear axle inside the frame rails to protect the tanks in a rear crash.
The automaker did allegedly move the tanks to the midship position in 2005, something that allegedly shows Chrysler knew the dangers of gas tanks in the rear. At the time this wreck occurred on July 29, 2017, every passenger car then being sold in the U.S. by Chrysler allegedly had its gas tank in the midship location and Chrysler sold no passenger cars with rear gas tanks.
The Jeep Cherokee fire lawsuit was filed in the State Court of Gwinnett County, Georgia - The Estate of Erica Scannavino, v. FCA US, LLC f/k/a Chrysler Group LLC.
The plaintiffs are represented by Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.
Similar lawsuit have been filed against FCA concerning the location of the gas tanks in Jeep vehicles, including in the case of Remi Walden, another lawsuit filed over the deaths of Edward and Theresa Dearden and the crash and death of Kayla White.