According to an article in the New York Times (free registration required) on 3/31/05, a study from the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen and documents from a recent lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company suggest that Ford ignored evidence that stronger roofs would lead to fewer injuries. Also on Wednesday, a plaintiffs’ lawyer in several prominent rollover lawsuits said he had obtained internal Ford documents that show that several years ago the company rebuffed assertions from its Volvo subsidiary that stronger vehicle roofs prevent injuries and deaths in rollover accidents. Documents connected with a trial this year involving Ford show that the automaker decided not to strengthen roof supports on the Explorer, a sport utility vehicle, although engineers at the company recommended the change.
A new study by Martha Bidez, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Alabama, concludes that “roof crush can and does cause catastrophic injury and death.” The study re-examined Ford’s own rollover crash data from 1998 and 1999 and concluded that the most catastrophic neck injuries occurred when the Explorer’s roof caved in and smashed into the crash dummy’s head. It further found that in test cases where the Explorer’s roof was not crushed, no serious injuries were recorded in the dummies.
The Explorer’s roof has become the subject of further scrutiny after the disclosure that more than a decade ago, Ford dismissed suggestions from its engineers that the vehicle’s roof supports be strengthened. A 1993 memorandum from two Ford engineers, which was reported in The Detroit News on Tuesday, suggested that the company reinforce support pillars that connect the body of the 1995 Explorer to its roof.
Ford did not, and produced Explorers in at least three subsequent model years that were more susceptible to having their roofs crushed in a rollover, according to documents introduced in the Florida case earlier this month
We have had successful recoveries in several cases of automotive product liability, including roof crush cases. While the specifics of settlements are subject to confidentiality covenants, our clients were satisfied and these types of issues are familiar to us.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).