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ARTICLE ID 140072

Alleged negligent design of Ford Explorer resulting in instability and tendency to roll over - Driver and passenger died in accident in which vehicle rolled over four and 1/2 times.

New York County, New York

On June 30, ________, 46-year-old Myrna Santos was driving a Ford Explorer north on the Garden State Parkway just north of Atlantic City. Traveling with her were her 17yearold son who was in the front passenger seat, her 13-year-old daughter who was sitting directly behind her mother, and two friends of the daughter also sitting in the rear seat. Mrs. Santos was traveling approximately 65 MPH (there was some dispute between accident reconstructionists as to how fast the vehicle was actually traveling), when the vehicle struck a turkey buzzard in the roadway which flew in front of her vehicle. Mrs. Santos lost control of her vehicle and rolled approximately four and a half times before coming to rest against a tree located in the median. Both Myrna Santos and her daughter were pronounced death at the scene of the accident. Her son sustained a serious ankle fracture requiring surgery and an alleged neurological injury. The plaintiffs, including the son, the estate of Mrs. Santos, and an aunt on behalf of the decedent daughter, commenced this action against Ford Motor Company setting forth claims of strict product liability, alleging that the vehicle was inherently unstable and prone to roll over due to a narrow track width and a high center of gravity, as well as a breach of warranty claim (dismissed during trial) and negligence. The defendant argued that the vehicle’s track width and center of gravity were comparable to other SUV vehicles manufactured by other automotive manufacturers and was not inherently unstable or prone to roll over.

Through its experts, the defendant demonstrated that the Ford Explorer has gone through vigorous testing during its design stage and presented videos of the testing to show the vehicle’s resistance to rolling over. The plaintiffs also raised various crashworthiness claims that were later discontinued during the trial.

The son, David Santos, who was 21 years old at the time of trial, alleged that he sustained traumatic brain injury. The defendant argued that that claim was without merit. The defendant’s expert neurologist opined that the films showed no evidence of brain injury. The defendant’s expert neuropsychologist, utilizing his grades after the accident and testing, further testified that there was no cognitive deficit.

The plaintiffs asserted claims for wrongful death, pre-impact terror, and for punitive damages. The punitive damages claim was dismissed at the close of evidence. The plaintiffs also made a claim for loss of Mrs. Santos’ earnings that were $________ annually as a hospital administrative assistant.

The plaintiffs originally demanded $________. To settle the case, they then demanded $________. There was no offer made to settle. The jury was comprised of four women and two men. After a 21-day trial and after deliberating for three hours, the jury returned a defense verdict.

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