Anchorwoman Polly Gonzalez was one of the most recognizable and beloved television personalities in Las Vegas. An award-winning veteran reporter, she was the community’s first Hispanic prime-time anchor. Ms. Gonzalez was known for her volunteer work with Hispanic youths and for urging youngsters to stay out of gangs. In 2005, while returning on a family trip from California, she was killed in a single-vehicle rollover accident near Death Valley. Her two young daughters, who also were in the 2000 Ford Explorer, were injured but survived the crash.
Ms. Gonzalez’s family filed suit against Ford Motor Co. alleging that the Ford Explorer she was driving was unsafe and contributed to her death. It’s contended in the lawsuit that the Explorer’s roof wasn’t strong enough to withstand a rollover accident and that the vehicle’s seat belt didn’t work properly. The accident report stated that the left half of the Explorer’s roof was crushed inward and the entire roof was buckled and bowed. Ms. Gonzalez’s seat belt was found partially extended. The 43-year-old mother, who sustained head injuries, died of blunt force trauma. The lawsuit contends that all Ford Explorers of that make and model have those design defects, not just the one Ms. Gonzalez was driving.
As we have mentioned in previous issues, automakers have fought to keep the 33-year-old federal safety standard for vehicle roofs in force, even though the standards are inadequate. In the Gonzalez case, an expert for her family will testify that Ford knew the roof strength in the Explorer “barely met minimum safety standards for rollover protection.” Larry Semenza, a lawyer from Las Vegas, is representing the Gonzalez family in this lawsuit.
If you have any questions about the design problems relating to automotive roofs generally, you can contact Ben Baker (Ben.Baker@BeasleyAllen.com) or Cole Portis (Cole.Portis@BeasleyAllen.com) in our office at 800-898-2034. Our firm has handled a number of cases with facts similar to those of the Gonzalez case.
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal
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