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Suit against Ford over Seat Collapse Can Continue, Court Rules

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Defective Products on Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled that part of a St. Louis County woman’s lawsuit against Ford Motor Company should not have been dismissed before going to the jury. The woman sued Ford after a 2005 accident in her Ford Explorer left her paralyzed from the waist down. She claimed that Ford failed to warn her that the seats in the SUV were not built to hold obese people in an accident.

The plaintiff weighs 300 pounds. She was rear-ended in the accident, which, combined with her weight, caused her seat to fall backward, fracturing her vertebra. She and her husband later sued Ford for failing to warn her that the seat would not protect her, and for defective design.

After the plaintiffs’ attorney presented her case, lawyers for Ford moved for a directed verdict on the failure to warn claim. They argued that the plaintiffs had failed to prove their claim, and the trial judge agreed. The judge did allow the defective design claim to go to the jury, which ruled in Ford’s favor.

In reversing the trial judge’s decision to grant the directed verdict, the state Supreme Court rejected the argument that Ford did not necessarily owe the woman a warning that would have affected her decision to purchase the SUV. Even if the seat was safe for an obese person in regular driving conditions and “most accidents,” the danger and type of car accident varies depending on the situation. Therefore, it is at least arguable that Ford should have warned the plaintiff of possible seat collapse, and the plaintiffs deserve to have that claim go before a jury, the Court wrote in its 4-2 decision.

Source: Riverfront Times, “300-pound Woman’s Suit Over Seat Collapse Can Go to Trial, Missouri Supreme Court Finds,” Sarah Fenske, January 25, 2011

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