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Posted April 23, 2012 | comments 10 Comments

Suits seek $50 million in quadruple fatality

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Lawsuits seeking a total of $50 million accuse Chrysler Group of negligence, claiming a design flaw in its Jeep Cherokee caused the fatal fire that killed a family of four in a June crash in Frederick County.

The two separate complaints, filed Wednesday in Frederick County Circuit Court, also blame the driver of the Chevrolet S-10 pickup, which collided with the rear end of the Jeep, of negligence.

The driver, Steven Allen Boyce, 21, of 221 Hawk Trail, Shawneeland, stands accused in the court for causing the deaths of Amanda and Mark Roe and their sons Caleb and Tyler, all occupants in the Jeep at the time of the crash, which occurred in the late morning of June 24, on U.S. 11 at the Interstate 81 interchange.

Boyce remains held in the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center on four counts of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, a first offense of driving under the influence of alcohol and underage possession of alcohol.

The lawsuits name Chrysler Group LLC and Boyce as defendants. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company is identified as a defendant and as an underinsured/uninsured motorist carrier.

Richmond attorney James D. Hundley filed the separate complaints on behalf of Amanda Roe's mother, Brenda Simkhovitch, and Mark Roe's brother, Carl, identified as the administrators of the decedents' estates.

The suits note that Amanda Roe drove the 1994 Jeep Cherokee, owned by her husband, northbound on Martinsburg Pike at or near the intersection with the interstate. Chrysler Group designed the Jeep, the lawsuit states.

Boyce operated the Chevrolet pickup traveling directly behind the Jeep, which had stopped at a traffic light, according to the suit. The pickup struck the rear of the Jeep "which then became engulfed in flames," the filing states.

"As a result of the aforementioned collision, Amanda Louise Roe sustained severe bodily injuries and was ultimately burned to death," the complaint filed for states.

The complaint for Carl Roe makes the same claim for the survivor's brother.

The lawsuits also claim the design of the Chrysler vehicle contributed to the victims' deaths.

"The fuel tank of the Jeep was designed and installed in a location that is susceptible to rupture, puncture or other damage that would cause a breach in the fuel tank allowing fuel to escape thereby presenting the risk of fire and explosion, thus causing injury or death in the event of a collision," the complaint for Simkhovitch states.

Chrysler also designed the fuel tank using a material susceptible to rupture, puncture or other damage that would cause a breach and leak, according to the complaint.

Additionally, the lawsuits note the Jeep did not come equipped with a shield to protect the fuel tank; that the design made the filler neck susceptible to being torn away, pulled off or punctured, nor did the tank have a check valve to prevent spillage were the filler neck removed or damaged.

"The defendant, 'Chrysler,' failed to warn the Plaintiff of the potential hazards of the fuel tank and fuel tank assembly system contained in the subject vehicle when it knew, or should have known, that such hazards, would present the risk of fire and explosion, and thus lead to injury and/or death in the event of a collision," the complaint states.

The lawsuit notes Chrysler conducted tests on the Jeep Cherokee model years 1993-2005 to determine the vehicle's capability to withstand rear-end impacts under various conditions without losing fuel.

"These tests proved conclusively to Defendant, Chrysler, that the basic design of the Jeep Cherokee model years 1992-2005 as related to fuel tank integrity following rear end crashes, was totally inadequate to prevent fuel leakage and ignition," the complaint states. "Independent tests conducted by third parties proved conclusively that the design of the subject vehicle was unsafe, and those third parties strenuously argued to Chrysler that a recall be issued to protect purchasers of these mentioned Jeep Cherokees from predictable and foreseeable fires following a rear end collision."

The complaint accuses Chrysler of knowing that the Jeep Cherokee made for the model years 1993-2005 routinely became involved in crashes which produced fuel spills and fires resulting in burns and death.

"Despite this very clear knowledge from its own tests and the testing of others and its actual knowledge of incidents involving its Jeep Cherokee accumulated over roughly the last twenty years, Chrysler callously and with total disregard for the safety of the occupants of these vehicles, failed to take appropriate precautions from the obvious danger to the lives of said occupants."

The lawsuit accuses that Boyce "carelessly, recklessly and negligently operated his vehicle so that it collided with the rear of" the Jeep, according to the complaint.

"Defendant, Boyce, was negligent in that he failed to keep a proper lookout, to operate his vehicle at a reasonable speed under the circumstances and conditions then and there existing, failed to stop his vehicle as reasonably and legally required, and operated his vehicle after consuming an amount of alcoholic beverages sufficient to impair substantially his ability to operate his vehicle," the complaint states.

The suit cites as reasons for Boyce's "conscious disregard for the rights of others" that he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 at the time of the crash, and that, at the time he began drinking he knew doing so would impair his ability to drive.

The lawsuits also claims Chrysler committed a breach of its implied warranty.

Each plaintiff seeks $25 million in compensatory damages from the defendants.

10 Comments | Leave a comment

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    Speaking for myself, I think there may be a problem as far as this suit is concerned.

    Since this complaint involves the Cherokees manufactured from 1992-2005, that means they are talking about vehicles that were manufactured by the old Chrysler LLC, not the new Chrysler Group LLC established by Fiat SpA to acquire the best assets of the old Chrysler in 2009.

    As such, this suit may wind up being applied to the old Chrysler, not the new Chrysler we have today,

    A drunk killed the family, not the jeep. Since the drunk doesn't have a pot to pee in, I guess they have to go for the next biggest thing. I'm surprised they are not suing anheuser busch for creating an intoxicating drink. This lawsuit will cost credibility and sympathy for the victim and mine will be the first.

      Many years ago, I believe back in the mid 90's I can remember when a family who had lost a loved one due to a drunk driver had actually tried to do just that....suing a beer company for making well..beer. In that case it was Coors.

      Oh yeah the family also tried to sue Q102 radio and their then morning host Randy Woodward by claiming if it wasn't for Randy airing so many beer ads in the morning chances are the driver wouldn't had been influenced by Q102 & Randy Woodward to drink and drive drunk.

      Ah yeah...the case was thrown out of court. Geee I wonder why ???

    Shouldn't they have sued VDOT for making the road they were driving on too?

    It was a tragic, tragic accident. Lawyering up "on behalf of the estate" when the entire family was killed benefits exactly who? I agree with a previous commenter. My sympathy just got lost.

    And who installed that traffic light? They need to cough up some dough too! No traffic light, no collision!

    If this family died because, in fact, the fuel tank burst into flames due to Chrysler's unwillingness to fix a problem it knew about many years ago, I agree with this lawsuit. Yes, they were rear-ended by a drunk guy, but it's all causally related. If there wasn't a problem with the fuel tank, the Jeep wouldn't have burst into flames, despite being rear-ended, according to the suit. When the fuel tank caught on fire, it put Chrysler on the hook. If what is alleged is true, they tried to save a few bucks years ago, and it's resulted in many lives lost. I think it's time to pay up. It'll be up to a judge or jury to decide though, not us.

    I agree with battabatta..The problem was the fuel tank..and being almost a year now Im sure she did her research to come to this lawsuit...their Jeep could have been rear ended by anyone or backed in accidentally to something very hard etc..Chrysler and the drunk guy are to blame. Also no where does it mention and shes not required to mention what that money will go to or to whom. There may not have been adequate life insurance, there could have been debt..its a big amount BUT until any of us are in the situation who are we to judge the amount? She may give it to charity..she may build or donate in their name..That family has not lost my sympathy..I didnt know them but will never forget them...god bless them and Amanda's mother and surviving family..

    Maybe the attorney involved will share some of the 33+% he receives with the family and bless them as well. When will this 'we will all feel better with some more money' legal system be reformed?

    The accident was sad, tragic and completely preventable if the drunk driver would have not decided to drive while under the influence. No amount of money will bring back the 4 lives lost, nor will the money bring happiness to the remaining family members.

    The amount of the law suit is absolutely gross. To the family left behind, our total respect and prayers; to the attorney involved, only one word comes to mind: shame.

    God will bless all, when poor judgement and creed is addressed first.

    Wow. The public's disgust has gotten the shills involved now.

    I think 50 million is a bit much to ask for. The 4 victims would not have made that much in their lifetime if they had lived. But, how can you put a price on what a life is worth ? I think Chrysler knew the jeeps were unsafe. They just figured the number of them getting hit and catching fire and someone dying would be cheaper to settle than recalling all of them. I think 5 million would be fair. 1 million for each life lost and 1 million for pain and loss of companionship.


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