According to a judge in Florida, Ford Motor Company “defrauded the court, lied to federal regulators, and covered up decades of evidence linking sudden unintended acceleration incidents to electromagnetic interference.” Senior Judge William T. Swigert of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Sumter County, Fla., threw out a jury verdict favoring Ford in a sudden-acceleration lawsuit and ordered a new trial. The jury in the new trial will only determine compensatory and punitive damages for Peggy Stimpson, who was permanently paralyzed in a Ford Aerostar crash, and her family. Ms. Stimpson received debilitating injuries on October 28, 2003, when the 1991 Aerostar driven by her husband shot out of their carport and raced more than 100 feet before crashing into a utility pole. In his written order, Judge Swigert blasted Ford for:
systematically concealing a long history, stretching back to the 1970s, of studying the problem of electromagnetic interference and unintended acceleration … lying to NHTSA, systematically destroying field technical reports that identified electromagnetic interference with the cruise control servo as a cause of unintended acceleration and misleading its own experts, who have repeatedly testified in other cases that driver error had to be the cause of such events.
Judge Swigert also blasted Ford’s counsel for accusing the Stimpson’s lawyer of lying and for withholding the results of expert witness tests conducted to show what caused the tire marks left by the Stimpson’s Aerostar as it rocketed out of the carport. Both sides agreed that testimony regarding the tests would not be introduced, since they had not been recorded. But at trial, Ford’s lawyers brought them up in a cross-examination and in closing arguments, suggesting that the results had been withheld from the jury because they were “unfavorable to the Stimpsons’ theory of the case.”
The integrity of a book that automakers, including Ford, have hidden behind for many years in sudden acceleration trials was also questioned by Judge Swigert. First released in 1989, An Examination of Sudden Acceleration effectively pins sudden acceleration events on driver error. In light of Ford’s knowledge about the electronic causes of sudden acceleration incidents. Judge Swigert found this sudden-acceleration book to be “based on false information and untested assumptions for which no empirical evidence exists.” His findings and order were certainly not good news for Ford.
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