DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The family of a pregnant woman who died in a rear-end crash while in a Jeep Liberty has cleared a hurdle in a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler.

A federal judge in Detroit refused to dismiss a lawsuit Thursday filed by the estate of Kayla White. The 23-year-old Ferndale woman was killed in 2014 when her Jeep Liberty exploded when hit from behind. The 2003 vehicle had been under recall because of the placement of the gas tank.

Fiat Chrysler tried to get the lawsuit dismissed on technical grounds. The vehicle was made by the old Chrysler before it filed for bankruptcy. But Judge David Lawson says Fiat Chrysler assumed product liability claims when it took control.

The man who rear-ended White’s car, 70-year-old Clarence Heath, was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Police say Heath’s Cadillac struck White’s vehicle as both were approaching a reduced speed zone on M-10. White’s vehicle was pushed into two other vehicles before rolling and catching fire. Despite efforts by several Good Samaritans, White was unable to escape and died trapped inside her burning vehicle. She was eight month pregnant.

No other injuries were reported in the crash.

White was one of more than 70 people killed in fires involving older Jeeps with plastic fuel tanks mounted behind the rear axle.

Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.56 million Jeeps in 2013 under pressure from regulators. The remedy is a trailer hitch placed on the rear as extra protection for gas tanks behind the rear axle.

White’s Jeep wasn’t repaired. It’s uncertain if a hitch could have prevented the fire and her death.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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