Ford to Appeal Defective Product Claim in Gwinnett County

The automaker disagrees with a jury’s $1.7 billion verdict in a case involving a rollover crash that killed two people in 2014.

“I used to buy Ford trucks,” one observed remarked. “I thought nobody would sell a truck with a roof this weak. The damn thing is useless in a wreck. You might as well drive a convertible,” he added. During the trial, the plaintiffs cited reports of 80 similar rollover wrecks to support their defective product claims. 

During closing arguments, Ford’s lawyer said that it is “simply not the case” that the automaker was irresponsible and willfully made decisions that put customers at risk.

Defective Products

Ford is no stranger to defective product claims, specifically defective design claims. One of the most infamous product liability claims in history involved the 1970s Ford Pinto. Back then, as the energy crisis seemed to get worse every day, small, cheap, and light cars sold like hotcakes. No one seemed to want bigger, costlier, and heavier cars that dominated Ford’s product line.

In response, then-chairman Lee Iaccoca supposedly directed engineers to design a vehicle that didn’t weigh an ounce over 2,000 pounds and didn’t cost a dime over $2,000. To conserve weight, and therefore reduce cost, the Pinto’s designers placed the gas tank outside the rear axle. They also didn’t surround the gas tank with a protective lining, as is the case in most other vehicles.

As a result, the gas tank was prone to rupture and explosion, even in relatively low-speed rear-end collisions. The lawsuits from Marietta personal injury attorneys began piling up.

A controversial memo surfaced in which Ford executives weighed the cost of recalling Pintos and making them safer with the cost of paying liability claims. Essentially, Ford concluded it was cheaper to pay wrongful death settlements than it was to move the Pinto’s gas tank or at least give it more protection.

Other vehicles, or vehicle components, have manufacturing defect issues. The Takata airbag saga is a good example.

The first airbags appeared at about the same time as those ill-fated Pintos. Airbags have saved tens of thousands of lives over the decades. Airbag technology usually hinges on the chemical propellant. 

For many years, Takata used a stable and reliable chemical propellant that fully inflated airbags in the blink of an eye, but didn’t cause them to explode. Around 2000, the company switched to ammonium nitrate, which is the same compound Timothy McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City truck bomb. Ammonium nitrate is highly explosive and unstable, especially in high heat and humidity environments.

Several manufacturers recalled millions of vehicles with possibly defective Takata airbags. The company eventually declared bankruptcy.

Your Claim for Damages

Very few personal injury claims reach the appeal stage. Very few claims go to trial to begin with. Out-of-court settlements resolve about 95% of injury cases in Georgia. These settlements are especially common in defective product claims. Manufacturers are strictly liable for the damages their defective products cause.

Negligence or fault is typically only important to the amount of punitive damages. These damages punish negligent companies and deter future wrongdoing.

Compensatory damages are available as well in these cases. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional compensatory damages in wrongful death claims include money for lost future economic and emotional support.

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