We wrote last month about a jury verdict that was returned against U-Haul in Ohio. Now, there has been another such verdict in Kentucky. A trial in Louisville, ended with a verdict being returned against U-Haul in the amount of $11.9 million. Another defendant in the case, Ford Motor Co., had reached a pro tanto settlement, for a confidential amount before the trial. This case involved a 1993 Ford Explorer towing a Ford Contour on a rented U-Haul tow dolly. The towing combination swayed and jackknifed, forcing the Explorer to strike and roll over a guardrail. A rear seat passenger sustained a crushing injury to her spine, rendering her a paraplegic.
U-Haul initially placed its tow dollies on the market in 1982. At that time, it required that the towing vehicle weigh at least twice as much as the vehicle in tow plus the tow dolly. In addition, SUVs were not allowed to be rented and were thereby prohibited as a tow vehicle. Over the years, however, U-Haul has made some changes in its official policy. Each of the changes made by the company was intended to increase its rental market by cutting back on the weight ratio and the SUV prohibition. Finally, in 1998, the current model was placed on the market, and both a “one to one” weight ratio and SUVs were permitted. This obviously made towing by SUVs with that weight ratio extremely dangerous, thereby creating a hazard that had to be known and accepted both by U-Haul and Ford. In other words, both companies were willing to run the risk.
The Kentucky case is especially noteworthy. What started out as a family on its way to a new life in Florida, ended up in disaster on a Kentucky highway. Christopher Burkes, an airline pilot, his wife Corry and their infant son, Ryan, were heading to Florida when their lives were changed forever and not in the intended way. The Burkes had rented the tow dolly from U-Haul in Indianapolis in 2002. The 650-pound dolly should never have been used as U-Haul and Ford allowed it to be used in combination. The dolly was unsafe when used by an SUV like an Explorer because of the high center of gravity of an SUV combined with its narrow wheel base.
Corry Burkes, who was in the rear seat of the Explorer, is now paralyzed. Her baby who was in a car seat, suffered a fractured skull and was awarded $510,739.27 by the jury for medical expenses and pain and suffering. Peter Perlman, an outstanding lawyer from Lexington, Kentucky, represented the Burke family, and as usual did an outstanding job of handling the case. The exceptional discovery efforts in this case by the lawyers for the plaintiff’s allowed the jury to understand how this incident occurred and why it would never have happened had both U-Haul and Ford done the right thing.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.