Ford Motor Company Wins Jury Verdict in Limousine Fire Case

Shook, Hardy & Bacon successfully represented Ford Motor Company in a month-long trial involving a fire in a limousine that had been stretched from a Ford Lincoln Town Car.

Five women died in the fire, which occurred in 2013 on the Hayward/San Mateo Bridge. The plaintiffs were the husband and two young children of one of the women. This was the last remaining case of the nine originally filed, and the only one to go to trial. Ford was the only defendant at trial, all other defendants having reached pretrial settlements with the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs claimed Ford was aware of a defect in the Town Car that could cause friction between the driveshaft and floorpan sufficient to ignite the interior of the limousine.

Shook’s team argued that when the Town Car was stretched into a limousine, it was weight restricted to six passengers in the rear, but was later modified by limousine operators to carry up to 12 passengers, an overloading condition that led to the fracture of the floor structure, and contact with the driveshaft.

The plaintiff sought more than $42 million, including $2.9 million in compensatory damages. After four weeks of trial, the San Mateo (California) Superior Court jury returned a full defense verdict.

The Shook trial team was led by partners Frank Kelly and Grant Law. The legal issues at trial were handled by partner Amir Nassihi.

Geronga v. Ford Motor Co., San Mateo Superior Court, Case No. CIV524889 (May 26, 2016)