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Jackson v. Ford Motor Company: Products Liability Appeals

In Jackson v. Ford Motor Company, a man was killed when he lost control of his 2012 Ford Focus and was in a serious car accident. His wife was also a passenger in the car the day of the fatal accident.  While she was not killed in the crash, she did sustain serious personal injuries.

carDuring the accident, after the driver lost control of the car, the vehicle reportedly moved rapidly across all lanes of travel and crossed over the center lines into oncoming traffic.  At this point, the car collided head-on with a large tow truck commonly known as a wrecker. While the driver did not survive the impact, paramedics and other first responders were able to treat his wife on the scene, so she could be transported by medevac helicopter to a local level-one trauma center.  Her injuries were considered life-threatening at that time, and many of them led to permanent medical issues.
Following the crash, decedent’s wife filed a lawsuit in the name of her late husband’s estate and also in her name for the injuries she personally sustained in the crash.  She alleged that the reason for the crash was the defective design of the vehicle.

As our Boston products liability attorneys can explain, defective design is one of the common basses for filing lawsuit against the makers of a defective product.  This is essentially a claim based in negligence, meaning that defendants did not exercise due care when designing and marketing the car to consumers.  There is typically also a standard negligence claim filed along with a defective design claim.  Additionally, there is also often a claim known as failure warn of a known danger.  This claim is based upon the assertion that the defendant knew or should have known about a serious defect and did not properly warn consumers.

In Jackson, plaintiff specifically alleged that the vehicle’s “Electronic Power Assisted Steering” system (EAPS) was defectively designed, and that is what caused the car to lose control and crash. However, prior to trial, the defendant removed the case to federal court, so they could have a judge that was more likely to look favorable upon their position. Defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the cause of action on grounds that the plaintiff had not set forth sufficient facts to establish the defective system was the proximate cause of their injuries.   The court granted this motion to dismiss based upon lack of probable cause and plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the trial court’s dismissal on grounds that doing so was an abuse of expression.  While federal court requires what is known as fact pleadings rather than notice pleadings, this do not mean that the entire case needed to be argued in a complaint.   The court found that plaintiff had established facts, that if true, would show the power steering system had failed and that it was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and her husband’s death.  It should be noted that this does not automatically mean the plaintiff wins the cases, but it does mean that the jury should hear the case and make a determination based upon that evidence.

If you are the victim of Massachusetts product liability, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Jackson v. Ford Motor Company, November 29, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the the Sixth Circuit

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