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John Bisnar
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Judge Orders New Trial in Ford Lawsuit

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A U.S. federal judge has thrown out a $15 million jury verdict and ordered a new trial for a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. by a Tulsa couple whose 18-year-old son died in a rollover auto accident in November 2003, according to a news report by the Associated Press published in the Chicago Tribune.

Tyler Moody lost control of a 1995 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle while he was passing another vehicle in a no-passing zone on a curve. His parents, Kevin and Veronica Moody of Tulsa, filed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said the Explorer’s roof had “an inadequate roof-crush tolerance” and that Tyler Moody became trapped in the vehicle with the roof pushing his neck into his chest.

U.S. Chief District Judge Claire Eagan vacated the jury’s ruling against Ford and ordered the case retried beginning July 16. Eagan said Ford showed in post-trial motions the jury had been prejudiced by the conduct of Clark Brewster, the attorney for the Moodys. Eagan said that considering the size of the verdict, the proper thing to do is to order a new trial.

Brewster said Wednesday that Eagan’s basis for the decision involved matters that Ford’s attorneys didn’t object to during the trial. Ford attorney Mary Quinn Cooper disagreed, however, and said the company looks forward to retrying the case.

According to court records, Moody lost control of a 1995 Ford Explorer Sport while he was passing another vehicle in a no-passing zone on a curve. The sport utility vehicle left the road and rolled at least 1 1/2 times, coming to rest on its roof.

Brewster told the jury that the Explorer’s roof collapsed when the vehicle went through what he termed a relatively slow, easy roll.In his closing argument, Brewster said the part that gave way was made of “spindly little pieces of metal engineered down to an unacceptable level to save money.”

Moody was speeding through the curve, but Brewster argued at the trial that Moody’s speed was irrelevant to the issue of whether the SUV’s roof was defective.

Ford contends the vehicle exceeded federal standards.

“We’re confident that when a jury hears the relevant facts, free from the shadow of abuse cast over the first trial, they will conclude that Ford was not responsible for this tragic accident,” Ford said in a written statement Wednesday.

The judge set a July 16 trial date.

Does meeting federal safety standards mean that the vehicle is safe? Hell no!

The way federal safety standards are set is a joke. The automobile industry has more actual say in what the federal safety standards are than anyone else. Right now, as I write this, the automobile industry is trying to prevent the federal safety standards from being increased in the matter of roof strength. Most people in America would be appalled to know the lobbying that has gone on, behind closed doors, to keep federal automobile safety standards from keeping up with today’s technology to keep the profit margins up and so that the auto industry can say, “we meet the federal safety standards” when they are called to be accountable for their failure to meet consumer’s expectations with regard to the safety of their product.

In addition, we have found that many Ford Explorer SUV models, especially those from 1999 to 2001 model years, do not meet a crucial safety requirement intended to protect passengers in rollover crashes. This was further validated by a safety engineering firm we regularly call upon as expert witnesses in our Ford and SUV rollover cases.

They have found that a substantial number of these SUVs likely do not comply with the federal vehicle roof strength standard. We’ve represented numerous clients in cases against Ford Motor Co. Their recent recalls and news reports about continuing lawsuits and people getting injured in their vehicles only goes to show that they have a long way to go in terms of making their vehicles safer for drivers and passengers.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident, give us a call, especially if there is a chance that a manufacturer defect may have caused, contributed to or failed to prevent a serious injury. You may be entitled to more than you think! You may be able to take a negligent auto maker to task and hold the accountable for their safety shortcuts and your losses.