The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that Ford Motor Co. could be held liable for negligently designing a fuel tank in a vehicle that burst into flames when struck from behind. The Court’s decision affirms a $43 million jury verdict. The Plaintiff and her husband were stopped at a construction site on an interstate highway when their 1993 Lincoln Town Car was rear-ended by another vehicle travelling at approximately 65 miles per hour. The fuel tank in the Lincoln was punctured when a pipe wrench stored in the trunk was propelled forward by the force of the crash. A fire ensued and the Plaintiff suffered burns over 32% of her body. The Plaintiff’s husband died after suffering burns over 80% of his body.
The Plaintiff sued Ford alleging that the Lincoln Town Car was negligently designed with the fuel tank in an exposed position behind the rear axle. Ford argued that the Plaintiff failed to show that the car company breached the applicable standard of care. But the Court disagreed with Ford and ruled for the Plaintiff. The opinion of the Court stated:
The [plaintiff] presented extensive evidence of alternative fuel tank locations recognized and used in the automobile industry, including at Ford. The evidence revealed that Ford’s engineers were well aware of the danger of an aft-of-the-axle fuel tank being punctured in a rear-end collision, including by trunk contents, long before the manufacture of the 1993 Lincoln Town Car. …
The [plaintiff] alleged that Ford should have either moved the fuel tank to a safer location or provided a guard or shield to prevent a puncture of the fuel tank by component parts of the vehicle or trunk contents or warned consumers about the danger of trunk contents puncturing the fuel tank. There was ample evidence on the standard of care to justify the submission of these claims to the jury.
This is a most significant appellate decision. It’s important to realize that the standards set by the federal government are only minimum standards and oftentimes they are very weak. Quite often, science and engineering requirements are much higher than the government’s standards, which can be extremely weak. This Court reached the correct decision in this case.
Source: Illinois Appellate Court. Jablonski v. Ford Motor Company, No. 5-05-0723. Feb. 1, 2010. Lawyers USA No. 993-1616.
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.