Howard v. Ford Motor Co. 4/23/03

Howard v. Ford Motor Co., United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division (4/23/03)

The defective, overly aggressive passenger side airbag in Mrs. Wanda Howard's 1997 F-150 went off in a low speed collision when another vehicle pulled out in front of the Howards on September 13, 1998. Neither Mr. Howard nor Mrs. Howard was at fault in the wreck. Both were wearing their seat belts. No one in either vehicle, except Mrs. Howard, suffered any significant injury in this low speed collision. Mrs. Howard's severe brain injury was caused solely by her airbag. Plaintiff proved that the airbag was too powerful and overly aggressive for use in the truck. Plaintiff also proved that the airbag failed Ford's own internal injury guidelines; yet Ford sold it anyway and did not correct the problem and depower the airbag until the '98 model, which Ford was selling at the time of the wreck. Ford never warned owners of the '97 about what Ford knew of the problems or that a safer, depowered airbag was being sold to address them.

This case was originally tried over a two-week period beginning on February 10, 2003. After four and a half days of jury deliberations, the judge was forced to declare a mistrial when the only two jurors still holding out for Ford (final count was 10 for plaintiffs, 2 for Ford) fled the jury room complaining that there was "too much pressure" on them. The case was retried beginning about four weeks later, and a settlement was reached after the second day of that retrial. At Ford's request, the amount of that settlement is confidential.

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