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News of  May 02, 2000


Texas Jury Sends Ford $20 Million Message for Faulty Airbags
DALLAS / PRNewswire - A Dallas Texas jury Thursday told Ford Motor Company to pay $20 million in compensatory damages for injuries that an airbag in a 1995 Mustang caused to 2-year-old Samantha Roblez.

Following the trial, Ford spokespersons erroneously told the press that Ford would only have to pay $2.8 million of the $20 million awarded by the jury. Actually, Ford may be required to pay more that $20 million if the judge, as Texas law allows, adds 10 percent interest for the two years that have passed since the crash occurred. "To represent to the public that this Dallas jury only awarded $2.8 million is an absolute distortion of the truth. The verdict was $20 million. It's that plain and simple. Ford would do anything to minimize the significance of this case; that includes lying," said Dallas trial lawyer, E. Todd Tracy, who represented Roblez.

Tracy said, "This Texas jury sent a message to Ford that it's time to stop killing and crippling children with poorly designed airbags that inflate when they're not needed." Tracy believes of 22 airbag trials that Ford has tried, this case is the first airbag trial that the automaker has lost. During the trial Joseph Wills, a Ford engineer, acknowledged that "Ford does not design its airbags to protect children." According to Tracy, Samantha Roblez' forward-facing child seat was in the front seat of her mother's 1995 Mustang when she hit another vehicle that had stopped in front of her. Tracy and his experts put the impact speed at below Ford's 8-14 mph deployment threshold. Ford's experts placed the speed at 9.5 to 11 miles per hour. The impact of the airbag severed the child's spine at C3-4, leaving her a respirator-dependant quadriplegic.

Tracy said that the mid-mounted, horizontally deploying airbag, Ford's low deployment threshold, and the improperly placed sensors were design features that lead to this needless injury. The airbag deployed in a crash so minor that it caused only minor damage to the Mustang. The driver of the vehicle that was hit drove off and was never identified. During trial, Tracy pointed out that airbags in Ford's European cars are designed to deploy only in severe crashes, above 18.6 miles per hour. Tracy also pointed out in trial that Ford had no engineering, scientific or medical basis for its 8-14 mph airbag threshold.

  • E. Todd Tracy and Bill Dippel of Dallas, Texas, used the following experts and consultants during the trial:
  • Ralph Hoar & Associates, Arlington, VA, Research & Analysis
  • Steve Syson, Goleta, CA, Airbag Design
  • William Rosenbluth, Reston, VA, Airbag Speed
  • Steve Irwin, Dallas, TX, Accident Reconstruction
  • Marc Krouse, Ft. Worth, TX, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner of Tarrant County, Texas
  • Richard Moore, San Antonio, TX, Life Care Plan
  • Dr. Andrew Gelfand, Dallas, TX, Pediatric Pulmonologist
  • Sheldon Lee Stucki, Arlington, VA, Accident Data Analysis
  • Tony Sances, Santa Barbara, CA, Biomechanics
  • Jim Mundo, Canton, MI, Ford Engineering/Design History
  • Ted Zinke, Santa Barbara, CA, Sensor Development

(May 1, 2000)


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