Graham Esdale, working with Paul Martin, a lawyer from Ponca City, Oklahoma, recently settled a portion of a case arising out of an automobile accident which occurred on November 1, 2006 near Ponca City. Killed in the accident were Josh Harvey, his wife, Casey Rhodd, Casey’s eight-month unborn child, and one of their sons, six-year old Kaw-Liga Harvey. Also injured in the accident were five-year old Kyle Harvey and his brother, one-year old Kellen Harvey. The accident occurred when the Harvey family was returning home after visiting with family members. While traveling home, the Harvey’s 1994 Ford Explorer was struck in the rear by a Mercury Cougar traveling over the speed limit. At the time of the collision, Mr. Harvey and his wife were both properly belted. But on impact, their seatbacks collapsed rearward, causing them to be ejected out of their seats. The children, who were seated behind them, were struck in the process. No longer being in the driver’s seat, Mr. Harvey was unable to control the vehicle which left the road and rolled over several times.
The driver of the Mercury Cougar had been drinking. Approximately two hours after the accident, his blood alcohol was tested and found to be over the legal limit. It was learned that the Defendant driver had been gambling and drinking at a casino for about four hours before the accident occurred. The driver had run out of money and returned to his home approximately 20 miles away to get his checkbook and was returning to the casino when he ran into the back of the Ford Explorer. Other witnesses observed the Defendant driver leaving the casino approximately 45 minutes before the accident and say that he appeared to be intoxicated.
The claims against Ford Motor Company were based on the defective design of the front bucket seats in the 1994 Ford Explorer. The seats were not of sufficient strength to maintain the occupant in a safe upright seated position in a foreseeable collision. While the federal government requires vehicles to pass occupant protection standards at 35 mph frontal impacts, there is no corresponding requirement for rear impacts. In this case, the impact velocity of the rear-end collision was approximately 24 mph. Certainly, motor vehicle seats should maintain occupants in their seated upright position in a foreseeable collision of this survivable magnitude. Expert testimony in this case established that had the seats remained upright, none of the occupants would have received catastrophic or life-threatening injuries.
The Plaintiffs settled their claims against Ford Motor Company for a confidential amount. The remaining claims are still pending against the Defendant driver for causing this accident and against 7 Clans Paradise Casino for serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron who they knew, or should have known, was going to operate a vehicle on Oklahoma highways. Graham and Paul did a very good job for the Harvey family. They will now proceed with the rest of this case which will include claims against the drunk driver and the casino.
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