LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#BurnInjuryLawsuit–Rick Patterson of Southern California plaintiffs’ law firm Owen
Patterson & Owen and Fabrice N. Vincent of the national plaintiffs’ law
firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announce that Nancy
Urquiza Avila, Jacqueline Almanza Urquiza, and Yaritza Angulo Urquiza,
residents of Oxnard, California, have filed a personal injury lawsuit in
Los Angeles Superior Court against FCA US LLC (“Fiat Chrysler
Automobiles”) and certain other parties for the lethal injuries suffered
by Cesar Almanza Garcia and Cesar Almanza Urquiza in an explosion and
fire in their Jeep Liberty that occurred as a result of Fiat Chrysler
Automobiles’ failure to effectively and safely recall the 2002 Jeep
Liberty to meaningfully protect occupants from extraordinary risks of
fuel-fed fires following read-end collisions.
On December 4, 2016, this close-knit family of five was headed to Oregon
on the I-5 Freeway, north of Santa Clarita, when Baldemar Cervantes
Rivas, an agent and employee of Cervantes Brothers Trucking, negligently
struck the rear of Cesar Almanza Garcia’s 2002 Jeep Liberty, in which
Almanza was driving his family. The ensuing explosion and fuel-fed fire
caused severe burn injuries to the three survivors, and killed Mr.
Almanza and their three-year-old son Cesar Almanza Urquiza.
The complaint in the case alleges that the 2002 Jeep Liberty and 2.5
million vehicles like it (1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee; 2002-2007 Jeep
Liberty) are defective because the rear fuel tank was placed between the
rear bumper and rear axle, a placement that makes vehicles prone to
explode and burn when struck in the rear (like the Ford Pinto and Ford
Crown Victoria); placing a fuel tank midship (between the axles and side
rails) has been known for decades to best protect occupants. The
complaint further alleges that in the 2002 Jeep Liberty and 2.5 million
similar vehicles the fuel tank is placed low, under the bumper, where it
is most easily pierced in rear-end collisions (making it even worse than
other rear-mounted fuel tank vehicle designs). As reported by the U.S.
Department of Transportation, over 75 deaths, 58 injuries, and 90
incidents to-date are attributed to the Jeep fuel tank defect.
The Jeep Liberty driven by Cesar Almanza Garcia was recalled in 2014 by
defendant Fiat Chrysler Automobiles because of fuel-fed fires occurring
in exactly such situations (rear-end strikes). The complaint alleges
that the recall was outrageously deficient and defective because it
failed to effectively fix the defect, bypassing the installation of an
inexpensive plastic fire shield/panel that when pierced emits a fire
suppressant powder, and instead of truly fixing the problem only adding
a rear trailer hitch — equipment that was never designed or intended to
protect a gas tank — to affected vehicles with the notion that a rear
trailer hitch would provide a small physical impediment to mitigate
accident-caused fuel fires. The complaint alleges that an alternative
plastic fire shield/panel is a proven superior fix, in that it has been
deployed in 25,000 U.S. Military and Ford Crown Victoria vehicles to
successfully protect occupants from similar vehicle-impact, fuel-fed
fires. As the complaint concludes, had the fuel tank been properly
located, properly protected, and/or properly recalled, the Almanza and
Urquiza family would have avoided burn injuries and deaths.
“It is heartbreaking to consider that the tragedy and death suffered by
the Almanza and Urquiza family could have been prevented had Fiat
Chrysler Automobiles accepted its responsibilities to its customers and
adequately and safely protected its vehicles,” noted plaintiffs’
co-counsel Fabrice Vincent. “We hope our lawsuit will help raise
awareness of the serious explosion and fire dangers still present in
thousands of similar Jeep Liberty and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles.”
In this case, the 2002 Jeep Liberty did have a trailer hitch on it and
instead of properly protecting the fuel tank and the vehicle occupants,
the trailer hitch harpooned into the fuel tank, causing and/or
contributing to the occupants’ burn injuries and deaths.
The complaint seeks actual damages for plaintiffs’ injuries and the loss
of their loved ones, as well as punitive damages for, among other
things, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ sale and marketing of a dangerous and
defective product, failure to properly recall and protect that product,
fraud and malice in the knowing concealment of the true dangers of the
subject vehicle, and wanton and willful disregard of the safety and
well-being of purchasers like the Almanza and Urquiza family.
The complaint additionally calls upon Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to warn
consumers, vehicle owners and lessees, and the public that trailer
hitches are potentially hazardous and deadly when mounted on its
vehicles with rear fuel tanks. Plaintiffs ask Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
to consider recalling all affected vehicles for installation of the
plastic fire shield/panel, a proven-effective alternative to adding a
rear trailer hitch.
Legal Resources for Jeep Fire Victims
Please visit www.lieffcabraser.com/jeepfires
for more information and the answers to frequently-asked questions about
Jeep Liberty and Jeep Grand Cherokee accident-caused fuel-fed fires.
If you or a family member have been injured in a Jeep Liberty accident
or Jeep Grand Cherokee accident where impact damage caused a fuel-fed
fire, we welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your case.
Please call us toll-free at 1 800-541-7358 or complete the contact form
We will promptly review your case for free, confidentially, and in a
caring and compassionate manner.
About Owen Patterson & Owen
For almost four decades, Owen Patterson & Owen have been committed to
making every day count by striving for positive results for the people
we represent. Founded in 1977, our firm has always stood for results,
experience and integrity. Over the years, we have obtained settlements
and verdicts totaling several hundred million dollars. Our attorneys
played an instrumental role in obtaining a $4.85 billion settlement for
the victims of the dangerous drug Vioxx. Included on Law and Politics’
list of Super Lawyers and named one of the Top 25 lawyers by Valley
Magazine, members of our team have also held a wide range of leadership
positions in important legal organizations including president of the
Santa Clarita Bar Association. We are sincere about doing what is right
for the people we represent in personal injury cases.
About Lieff Cabraser
Recognized as “one of the nation’s premier plaintiffs’ firms” by The
American Lawyer, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP is a
seventy-plus attorney law firm with offices in San Francisco, New York,
Nashville, and Seattle. Our firm has successfully represented thousands
of vehicle injury victims across America in individual lawsuits. U.S.
News and Best Lawyers named Lieff Cabraser as their 2016 “Law Firm
of the Year” for representing plaintiffs in class actions and mass
torts, and we were recognized in 2016 by Law360 as one of the Top
50 Firms for Litigation in America and by Benchmark Litigation as
one of the Top 10 Plaintiffs firms in the country.
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