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ARTICLE ID 38284

$________ Product Liability - Negligent acceleration in reverse during vehicle test drive - Alleged defective brake/accelerator system in Ford Taurus - Cervical and lumbar sprain and strain - Radiculopathy.

Chester County

The plaintiff was employed by a Ford automobile dealership and was parking newly delivered vehicles in his employer’s parking lot in Phoenixville. The defendant driver was beginning a test drive of a new Ford Torus. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant driver negligently accelerated the Taurus in reverse, striking the vehicle which the plaintiff was parking. The defendant driver maintained the adjustable brake/accelerator system of the Taurus was defective and caused him to depress the accelerator instead of the brake. The defendant named Ford Motor Company as an additional defendant in the case on a product liability theory. The plaintiff then dismissed his complaint in Chester County and refiled the action in Philadelphia County naming Ford as a direct defendant along with the driver. However another plaintiff, a Ford dealership employee who was a passenger in the vehicle being test driven by the defendant driver, filed a separate action against the defendant driver in Chester County.

The cases were then consolidated and tried in Chester County.

The male plaintiff was 55 years old at the time of the accident.

He testified he was stopped, preparing to back the vehicle into a line of new vehicles, when his vehicle was struck by the defendant driver who was accelerating in reverse. The impact caused deployment of the single airbag in the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff’s physiatrist testified the plaintiff sustained sprain and strain injuries to his neck, shoulder and low back with nerve involvement as a result of the accident. The plaintiff complained of occasional radiculopathy in his left arm and left leg. He was unable to undergo an MRI due to a metal implant in his ear for an unrelated hearing loss.

The plaintiff’s vocational expert testified the plaintiff is limited to sedentary employment and could not return to his former position. The plaintiff had not returned to work as of the time of trial.

The defendant driver testified he became confused due to the adjustable pedal system of the Ford Taurus and depressed the accelerator instead of the brake. Expert engineers for both the defendant driver and the plaintiff testified the design of the pedal system was defective.

The defendant Ford argued that the adjustable pedal system, designed to move closer or farther from the driver, was not defective. Ford utilized a model of the pedal system as a p 7 3 demonstrative aid. The defendant Ford’s engineer opined that the accident resulted from driver error.

The defendants’ orthopedic surgeon testified the plaintiff sustained only soft tissue injuries as a result of the accident and those injuries had resolved with no objective evidence of continuing problems.

The jury found the defendant driver ________% negligent and found that the Ford Taurus was not defective. The jury awarded the plaintiff $________ in damages. The second plaintiff passenger settled his claim prior to verdict.

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