Arizona’s Supreme Court has ruled that Jeep can be sued for the girl’s death

The lawsuit filed by the Varela family claims that car manufacturers should equip new vehicles with the latest safety standards.

PHOENIX – The Arizona Supreme Court issued a clear ruling on Tuesday allowing parents of a little girl to sue a major automaker for failing to install safety options in the lower models of their vehicles.

The family said these security features could have saved their daughter’s lives.

It was another hot and stuffy night in northern Phoenix. 2015 had been one of the most active monsoon seasons for a while and the valley recovered from storms that hit that day in August.

Melissa Varela walked out of Loop 101 at Cave Creek Road, with her 4-year-old daughter, Vivian, strapped to the center seat in the back.

The traffic in front of her had stopped.

Suddenly there was a scream from the tires and a collision that shook her car and sent her into the car in front of her. At that moment, Melissa’s entire life changed.

According to the black box in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee that hit Varela’s Lexus, the driver approached Cave Creek Road at 70 miles per hour and suddenly changed lanes, as if he were driving out at Cave Creek. The driver apparently did not see the stopped traffic, hit the brake and tried to turn left, but it was too late.

The jeep crashed into Lexus, wrinkled its back and killed Vivian.

Seven years later, the valley’s lawyer Brent Ghelfi says that Chrysler – which owns Jeep – chose profit over security.

“What Chrysler had done was that it had taken a safety feature – in this case, called Automatic Emergency Braking, a safety feature that helps prevent rear-end accidents – and used it only in the higher models of this vehicle,” Ghelfi said.

The lawsuit filed by the Varela family claims that car manufacturers, in this case Chrysler, should equip new vehicles with the latest safety standards.

AEB was only available on more expensive models of the 2014 Grand Cherokee. Ghelfi says that in order to get AEB, buyers must buy it in a package with other non-safety-related upgrades, such as premium wheels or an upgraded entertainment system.

In a statement, the FCA US, commonly known as Chrysler, said:

“The FCA US expresses its deepest sympathies to the Varela family for their loss and other injuries resulting from this horrific, high-speed collision caused by an inattentive driver. our other defense of the district court. “

2014 The Jeep Grand Cherokee meets all applicable federal vehicle safety standards.

Although automatic emergency braking is a promising new technology, it can not prevent all crashes in every accident scenario.

Trials that try to impose an autonomous function on all vehicles can inadvertently hinder the development of better versions as the technology matures.

The FCA agrees with the federal government’s goal of allowing such technology to be developed so that it can be safely distributed in a way that encourages innovation and technological progress.

On Tuesday, March 1, 2022, Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled that Varela’s lawsuit may continue after a lower court rules that a federal law precedes Varela’s claim.

Making the latest safety technology a standard feature on cars is something that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been working on for several years. In recent times, they have found some success.

“Early on, we had pretty good evidence that automatic emergency braking that helps prevent front and rear collisions really did,” said David Zuby, IIHS Chief Research Officer. “We thought it should be standard enough that we worked with car manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to get car manufacturers to commit to making it the standard for the 2023 model.”

However, one victory is not enough for the Varela family. They say they are looking for a real change in how car manufacturers market their safety features. They hope that proven safety features will become standard instead of being combined in more expensive vehicle models.

“Trials like this are forcing carmakers to engage in better behavior,” Ghelfi said. “To make better decisions, so that fewer accidents like this happen and we have fewer Vivian Varelas out there and fewer Melissa and Mitchel Verelas out there.”

There is no date for a trial yet. Ghelfi believes, with most of the research for the trial done, the process will go fast.

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