Our firm recently settled two wrongful death claims against Ford Motor Co. The case involving the claims was brought on behalf of the estates of Jacob Tolver and Henix Hardy, who were both killed in a single vehicle rollover crash involving a 1992 4 door 4×2 Ford Explorer. The owner and driver of the vehicle, Mr. Hardy, was driving about 45 mph when a deer darted out from the right side of the road. He hit his brakes and performed an evasive maneuver in an attempt to avoid the deer by steering left. As he steered to avoid the deer, the Explorer went into a clockwise yaw and rolled over. Both Mr. Hardy, the driver, and Mr. Jacob Tolver, a front seat passenger, were ejected and killed. At the time the Explorer rolled over, it was going approximately 27 mph.
Ford Motor Co. has had a policy in place since 1973 that vehicles should not rollover in an emergency maneuver on dry flat pavement. In 1986, Ford sent one of its most influential executives, Ms. Helen Petrauskas, to testify before Congress about the high rate of rollovers that were occurring in Ford Explorers. Ms. Petrauskas, in response to intense questioning, confirmed that Ford’s internal standard was that a vehicle should not roll over even in severe handling maneuvers.
Ford internal documents revealed that Ford knew before the first Ford Explorer ever left the assembly line that this vehicle would roll over on dry flat pavement in emergency avoidance maneuvers. Ford engineers, prior to the sale of this vehicle, ultimately concluded that there were four fixes required make the vehicle more stable. The target date for this Explorer to hit the market was February 1990. Since the fixes required to make this vehicle more stable could not be implemented by that date, Ford chose to take the risk and sell it anyway.
When other employees at Ford questioned that decision, management decided to go forward and took the position that they would assume the risk. In this case, Ford gambled and as a result Mr. Hardy and Mr. Tolver died. Numerous others have also died because early model Ford Explorers had a propensity to roll over on dry flat pavement during emergency avoidance maneuvers. Incidentally, the early model Ford Explorers, such as the 1992 model involved in this case, became the best selling SUV in the world. LaBarron Boone and Greg Allen from our firm handled this case and they did a very good job for the two families.
Litigation and the court system have brought about Ford making needed changes in the Explorer. It’s my belief that our firm, along with others, were able to get Ford’s attention. In any event, something definitely caused Ford to make significant design changes for the Explorer. The new Ford Explorers are wider and lower to the ground, and as a result, less prone to roll over than earlier models. If you need more information relating to the rollover potential of the Ford Explorers, or any other similar vehicles on the road, you can contact Greg Allen or LaBarron Boone at 1-800-898-2034 or by email at Greg.Allen@beasleyallen.com or LaBarron.Boone@beasleyallen.com.
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