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Los Angeles County, California

This action arose out of a two vehicle collision which culminated in the rollover of the plaintiff’s ________ Ford Ranger. The plaintiff asserted products liability claims against the defendant Ford Motor Company, alleging that the Ford Ranger was equipped with an unsafe seatbelt restraint system that permitted "inertial release" of the plaintiff’s seatbelt during the rollover. The plaintiff was consequently ejected from the vehicle and sustained major head trauma.

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was a 23-year-old college student working as a medical courier. He was traveling westbound on the ________ Freeway between Pasadena and Glendale in the number one lane. The co-defendant Mary Rossi, age 82 at the time, attempted to make a lane change from the number three lane to the number two lane, became "apprehensive," swerved back into her lane, lost control, entered the number four lane and right shoulder, fishtailed across the freeway and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle in the right rear. The plaintiff’s ________ Ford Ranger was thrown into a clockwise yaw, went sideways and the vehicle rolled two to three times.

The plaintiff and the co-defendant Rossi claimed that the defendant Ford Motor Company was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries under products liability theories of defective design and manufacture. The plaintiff initially claimed that the product was defective due to alleged "inertial release" of the plaintiff’s seatbelt which allegedly occurred during the course of the rollovers.

Eyewitnesses called by the plaintiff claimed to have seen the plaintiff on the freeway two minutes before the accident properly wearing his seatbelt strapped across his shoulder. On-scene p 7 3 witnesses claimed that the belt was deployed out from the retractor and unlatched following the accident. The plaintiff called three to four on-scene witnesses to corroborate the unusual position of the seatbelt.

Immediately prior to trial, the plaintiff and co-defendant Rossi elected not to pursue the theory of "inertial unlatching" and chose to rely solely upon "consumer expectation test," namely, that the product failed to meet the consumer’s expectations and, therefore, was defective. Counsel for defendant theorizes that this change in theories was presumably undertaken in order to avoid reference to a recent NHTSA study demonstrating that the inertial unlatching theory was scientifically unsubstantiated.

The defendant Ford Motor Company claimed that the plaintiff was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident. Physical evidence was consistent with non-use of the belt, according to defense experts, as ejection occurred through the passenger window early in the rollover sequence, typical of an unbelted occupant. The defendant Ford, through exemplar rollover crash tests, demonstrated that a similar rollover generates witness marks on belts and belt hardware where there were no such marks on the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff called ten "habit and custom" witnesses who testified that the plaintiff habitually wore a seatbelt when driving or riding. The defendant countered with a surprise witness, a co-worker of the plaintiff, who indicated that the plaintiff habitually buckled his seatbelt behind him and sat on it. Plaintiff’s attorney attempted to impeach this co-worker based upon bias arising from the "fact" that their employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance as required by law, depriving this witness of a Christmas bonus due to legal expenses incurred by the employer as a result of the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

The plaintiff called the plaintiff’s employer to suggest that the co-worker was biased against the plaintiff and the veracity of the employer’s testimony was called into question by additional testimony from the co-worker, who stated that the employer had confided to him that he and the plaintiff’s attorney had entered into a deal with regard to testimony the employer would offer.

During the rollover, the plaintiff was ejected from the vehicle and sustained major head trauma. The plaintiff suffered skull fractures on the right side, cortical blindness in the right eye, loss of hearing in the right ear, and loss of complete sense of taste and partial sense of smell. The plaintiff remained in a coma for ten to 15 days at Huntington Memorial Hospital. The head trauma caused erosion of the brain tissue in the frontal lobe.

The plaintiff’s treating neurologist testified that as a result, the plaintiff suffered diminished intelligence, short term memory loss as well as demonstrable and adverse personality changes.

Following the accident, the plaintiff, who had purportedly been a B+ student, attended remedial classes for brain injured persons at Glendale Community College and, prior to trial, attempted a semester at Humbolt State College where he received C’s and D’s.

The plaintiff claimed past medical specials of approximately $________. He claimed lost earning capacity of approximately $________. The plaintiff’s rehabilitation expert testified that the plaintiff would be able to work only 50% of his normal earning p 7 3 capacity and would not be able to hold steady employment due to personality changes and the short term memory deficit caused by the accident.

On the issue of pain and suffering, counsel for plaintiff suggested that the jurors would not trade the loss of four of five of their senses for a three million dollar home. The plaintiff demanded $4 million at the Mandatory Settlement Conference. No offer was forthcoming by the defendant Ford Motor Company at the settlement conference. The defendant thereafter filed a CCP Sec. ________ demand of $________ raised to $________ at the pretrial issues conference reportedly as an accommodation to the Court and to avoid trail costs.

The jury found the co-defendant Mary Rossi ________% liable for the accident and returned a verdict of $________ as against this defendant. The jury exonerated the defendant Ford Motor Company.

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