Skip to comments.Crash victim gets $43 million award (Ford crash lawsuit)
Posted on 04/20/2005 12:02:00 PM PDT by wmichgrad
A Madison County jury returned from deliberations Tuesday night to award $43 million to Dora Jablonski in the aftermath of a fiery crash two years ago for which prosecutors say Ford Motor Co. was primarily to blame.
Jurors got the case just after 3 p.m. and handed the verdict form to Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian five-and-a-half hours later.
In his closing statements, attorney Brad Lakin asked the jury to award Jablonski and her family $32 million for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other expenses but left it up to them to fix an amount for punitive damages. The jury decided on $15 million.
Lakin argued that Ford ignored warnings from its own engineers that designing the 1993 Lincoln Town Car with a vertical fuel tank behind the rear axle was unsafe. Later, the company chose not to spend $9.95 per car to relocate the fuel tank to a safer location; Lakin said they deemed that option too expensive.
"It has to be a substantial amount to send a message that that conduct is wrong," he said of the punitive damages.
Jurors awarded $5 million to Dora Jablonski's husband, John Jablonski, who was killed after Natalie Ingram, a then-21-year-old SIUE student, slammed her car into the rear of the Town Car, which had stopped for construction on Interstate 270, near the Illinois 203 exit.
Ford's attorney, Jim Feeney, argued again on Tuesday that it was Ingram, not Ford, who was to blame for the tragedy when she fumbled for her glasses and failed to notice that the Town Car had stopped. Ingram was ticketed for failing to slow down to avoid the accident. On the eve of the trial, she was dismissed as a defendant in the suit.
Jurors gave $23.1 million to Dora Jablonski, awarding a total of $19.5 million to her for disability, disfigurement, and pain and suffering. Last week, Jablonski testified for nearly 90 minutes from her wheelchair. Jurors learned that she was burned over 32 percent of her body and came away with deformities to her ears, nose, head, face, hands, arms, shoulders, and legs.
Lakin told jurors that John Jablonski's final memory was of his wife engulfed in flames. He asked them to award her $10 million for pain and disability. "Her pain, at the time of the accident, was the most excruciating anyone could imagine," he said
Lakin also asked them to award $15 million in punitive damages against Ford, saying the company knew about the potential for safety problems for 40 years but that "no Ford employees were ready to accept responsibility."
Feeney argued that the company followed federal safety guidelines by acting reasonably and by offering a car that met the criteria of being reasonably safe. Moreover, the Town Car, he argued, met Ford's own safety design guidelines.
The explosion was caused by a wrench in the Jablonski's trunk that "blew" through the fuel tank on impact, causing the tank to rupture and igniting an explosion. But Feeney said the Town Car's design "mitigates risk of puncture" by contents stored in the trunk. The Town Car, he argued, had met the highest crash standards in the industry. Accidents and fires occur in all cars, he argued, and the risk of fire in such a crash is extremely rare. The Town Car, he said, was designed with a metal barrier around the gas tank that was designed to prevent explosions. Ingram, he said, admitted she was traveling more than 60 mph at the time of impact, and there was no evidence that she tried to brake. Feeney called the accident "one-of-a-kind." For the fuel tank to be punctured, Feeney argued, several unusual factors had to be present, including excessive speed, failure to brake, and the position of the wrench in the trunk. "It was the perfect alignment of the moon, the sun, the stars, the planets," he said. "Everything had to be same for this to happen."
Why American business leaves America...
Why American business leaves America...
Maybe Ford needs to move the fuel tank under the seat.
They are all to blame. We need tort reform today to stop this nonsense.
Atlas will soon shrug.
I wish someone would point me to the gulch.
brain dead motorist ping
"...point me to the gulch."
Let me know when you find it.
We have appellate courts.
Are you hurt? Do you need money? I'll take the case. Next?
True, but the problem is (1) the costs borne by the defence in bringing the case to an appeal and (2) the chill on other defendents who settle meritless claims because of the risks involved in taking a claim to a jury. What you really need is loser pay, something that's always been around in Canada and works reasonably well.
There are a lot of cars out there with this gas tank configuration. It's no more or less unsafe than other designs; my Z carries a 19 gallon tank aft of the rear IRS, but before the bumper, and it's not been considered unsafe. I've not seen any argument yet (that made sense) that explained why the Town Car/Crown Vic/Grand Marquis tank design is any less safe than, say, the Cadillac Fleetwood, Jaguar XJ8. or the BMW 7-series' is. Anyone seen one?
Seriously, did everyone read right past the portion of the article that said Ford knew of the increased risk of explosion by placing the fuel tank behind the axle and chose not to spend $10 per car on a recall to move it? This is bean counting at its worst that placed unecessary risks to the consumer. The verdict is high, and will be reduced on appeal, but come on, this case was meritorious.
Why not blame the lawyers? The "idiot judge" who permitted this case to go before a "moronic jury" is most likely a lawyer himself.
I do know one thing, getting ANYTHING done to your car for under $10 is IMPOSSIBLE.
Seriously, think about it.
Do you really think that it would only cost $10.00 to move the gas tank in a recall? Secondly, if they did recall the cars there would be an appropiate spot to move it. The car was engineered with the gas tank in a specific spot, no other spot would be as well protected.
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