Ford Motor Company Wins Jury Verdict in Seat Design and Rear Structure Case

Shook, Hardy & Bacon successfully represented Ford Motor Company in a seven-week trial in the Stanislaus County Superior Court, Modesto. On April 10, 2015, the jury returned a 10–2 defense verdict in favor of Ford in a case involving the design of the Ford Taurus.

Plaintiff, a 13 year old rear seat passenger, had sustained a skull fracture and traumatic brain injury when the Ford Taurus in which he was a passenger was struck in the rear at high speed by an SUV. The speed of the crash and biomechanical reconstruction were hotly contested, with plaintiff having run multiple car-to-car crash tests to support their theories.

The plaintiff’s allegations included claims that Ford failed to conduct adequate rear impact safety testing, and claims that the intrusion from the allegedly inadequately designed rear structure combined with the allegedly defective front seat’s excessive deformation to cause the plaintiff’s brain injury.

Ford maintained that Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by his interaction with an aftermarket speaker box, and that the vehicle’s design was safe and defect free. Ford also asserted that the driver of the SUV caused the crash and all the resulting injuries by negligently taking his eyes off the road to reach for a bottle of Gatorade.

Plaintiff sought over $18 million in damages, which included $8 million in economic damages. Plaintiff also sought punitive damages in an unspecified amount; however, the court granted Ford’s motion for nonsuit of Plaintiff’s punitive damage claim.

The trial team was led by Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s San Francisco Partners Frank Kelly and Grant Law and Associates Kate Wolf and Rachael Smith. The legal issues at trial were handled by Partner Amir Nassihi.

Plaintiff was represented at trial by Joseph W. Carcione, Jr. and Joshua Markowitz of Carcione, Cattermole, Dolinski, Stucky, Markowitz & Carcione in San Mateo, and Aaron Markowitz of the Markowitz Law Group in San Jose.