Snell & Wilmer lawyers Dan Rodman and Alina Mooradian represented Ford Motor Company in a product liability and negligence case tried in Los Angeles, California. The lawsuit arose from a 2010 rollover accident in which the seat-belted driver of a 1998 Ford Expedition SUV suffered fatal head injuries. Plaintiff had claimed that the roof of the Expedition was defectively designed. Rodman and Mooradian also defended claims that Ford failed to warn the public of the SUV’s alleged defects and failed to recall or retrofit the Expedition to reinforce the roof.
The accident occurred when the Expedition’s driver, a 58-year old California woman, swerved the Expedition off a California highway following a right rear tire blowout. After sliding off the paved roadway, the Expedition rolled over three complete times in a dirt median, during which the driver’s head extended out the driver’s window and struck the ground, causing the fatal injuries. Three other occupants suffered varying injuries, but did not pursue lawsuits against Ford. Plaintiffs, who were the adult sons of the driver, claimed that the roof of the Expedition shifted laterally over the driver’s head during the rollover, exposing her head to the ground, and that the roof needed to be at least twice as strong as it was to prevent such an occurrence. Plaintiffs also alleged that Ford did not adequately test the roof of the Expedition during its development, claiming that Ford should have conducted dolly rollover testing and drop testing to evaluate the strength of the roof.
Ford presented evidence that it was not responsible for the accident or the rollover, that the roof of the Expedition was safe and thoroughly tested in accordance with industry custom, and that the strength of the roof was similar to that of other comparable vehicles. Ford also presented rollover testing conducted with reinforced roof vehicles to show that strengthening the roof of the Expedition would not have prevented the driver’s head from extending out past the plane of the window during this high-speed rollover accident.
The jury trial lasted for three weeks and ended on May 7, 2014.