The jury believed that FCA acted with "reckless and wanton disregard," and didn't do enough to warn owners, according to Reuters. The automaker was found liable for 99 percent of the damages, and the remaining one percent was for the driver who rear-ended the family's SUV.
In a statement from FCA US, the company said that it is considering an appeal. Under Georgia law, the automaker was allegedly unable to present a three-year investigation of rear-impact data to jurors. This was the same information the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration used to decide that the '99 Grand Cherokee "did not pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety."
The original recall for the models covered 1.56 million examples of the 2002-2007 Liberty and 1993-1998 Grand Cherokee. With the fuel tank located between the rear axle and bumper, NHTSA and FCA eventually agreed to install a trailer hitch for extra protection. A further 1.2 million 1999-2004 Grand Cherokees owners received notice of a customer service action to have their vehicles inspected, though no hitch installed. Subsequent tests showed this remedy to be effective for impacts below 40 miles per hour. The automaker has maintained the SUVs met the applicable safety standards of the period when they were built. The company was chastised by NHTSA last year for low repair rates of the problem.
April 2, 2015 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - FCA US is disappointed and will consider an appeal of this verdict. It is unfortunate that under Georgia Law the jury was prevented from taking into account extensive data submitted to NHTSA during a three year investigation, which included more than 20 years of rear impact accident data for tens of millions of vehicles. This and other information provided the basis for NHTSA's determination that the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee did not pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.