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Cook County, Illinois

This action arose out of a single-vehicle accident involving a ________ Ford Taurus, which impacted a small deer at an estimated speed of approximately 45 mph. The accident triggered deployment of the front seat air bag. The female plaintiff, who was seated in the front passenger seat, suffered a spiral fracture to the left femur when her leg was pushed upward by the activated air bag. The plaintiff alleged that the subject Taurus was equipped with an unsafe air bag system. Specifically, the sensor device triggering air bag deployment was alleged to be too highly sensitive, resulting in unnecessary activation under certain conditions.

On October 22, ________, the plaintiff’s husband was operating their ________ Ford Taurus, traveling westbound on Route 20 (Villa Street) in the Village of Elgin, in Cook County, Illinois. The 44-year- old female plaintiff was seated in the front passenger seat. Both plaintiffs were wearing the available seat belts. As the vehicle headed westbound at approximately 7:30 P.M., the vehicle struck a "small" deer at 45 mph, causing the driver and front-seat air bags to activate. During the course of deployment, the plaintiff’s left leg, which she had crossed over her right leg, was forced over her right shoulder by the air bag. This resulted in a severe spiral fracture of the left femur.

The defendant Ford contended that the female plaintiff was seated with her left leg on the dashboard, and that in this unsafe position, her leg was directly in the path of the deploying air bag at the time of impact.

The plaintiffs contended that the design of the ________ Taurus was defective and unreasonably dangerous because it failed to incorporate a safe air bag system, consisting of properly calibrated and tested crash-sensors to ensure proper deployment and to prevent activation in low-impact collisions, such as the accident at issue. The plaintiffs’ experts maintained that a dual threshold air bag system, that would raise the deployment threshold for belted occupants, was feasible and should have been incorporated into the Ford Taurus’s overall design.

Finally, the plaintiffs contended that the warnings and instructions were inadequate because they failed to incorporate specific instructions that the passenger seat should be placed to the farthest practical rearward position on the seat tracks. The plaintiffs’ experts explained that adjusting the passenger seat in this manner would decrease the risk of injury attributable to air bag deployment, an important factor that the consumer was entitled to know. Additionally, the plaintiffs offered evidence that other automotive manufacturers, such as General Motors, do simulated deer testing in an effort to prevent deer-impact- triggered air bag deployments.

The defendant Ford contended that the ________ Taurus was reasonably safe and provided excellent occupant crash protection as demonstrated by the vehicle’s performance in FMVSS ________ certification tests, government-conducted New Car Assessment Program tests and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offset crash testing. Ford asserted that changing the location and calibration of the front crash-sensors and passenger compartment sensors would jeopardize the performance of the air bag system in mid-speed pole crashes, car-to-car offset crashes and angle p 7 3 barrier type crashes where the potential for late deployment or non-deployment would arise if the sensor calibrations were changed as advocated by the plaintiffs’ experts.

Ford presented evidence that the deer impact in the subject accident occurred directly on the front crash-sensor and thus, provided a force sufficient to close that sensor simultaneously with the passenger compartment safety-sensor, triggering the air bag deployment.

The plaintiff suffered a severe spiral fracture of the left femur necessitating four surgeries over the course of four years, all of which required the placement of hardware in an effort to obtain a union of the severely comminuted fracture. She also underwent arthroscopy to address posterior ligament damage to her left knee. The plaintiff claimed disfigurement for the large scar on her left thigh as well as the scaring on her hip, where two bone grafts had been taken. The surgeries resulted in a shortening of her left leg and a one-inch height differential between her two legs. The plaintiff husband, who was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident, asserted a loss of consortium claim against the defendant manufacturer.

The jury found for the defendant.

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