The Marion-Chronicle Tribune reported jurors awarded the two men damages – approximately $3 million each – for the negligence of another driver, who perished in the collision.
While the decedent’s estate insisted the crash was caused by a faulty throttle cable designed and manufactured by Ford Motor Co., jurors ruled the decedent was 100 percent at fault. Specifically, they ruled she pressed down on the accelerator rather than the brake, causing her vehicle to crash into the victims. Her estate will be responsible for the entire award.
The crash happened in July 2009 when the decedent was driving southbound on State Road 37 in her 2005 model passenger vehicle. As she approached a traffic signal at an intersection, her light was red. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs were stopped in the northbound lane, waiting for the light to change. However, rather than stopping at that red light, the decedent accelerated through the intersection, slamming into the plaintiffs’ vehicle at a high rate of speed before leaving the roadway and crashing into a pole.
The decedent was pronounced dead at the scene. The plaintiffs were both severely injured.
In the following year, the decedent’s auto insurer filed a claim against Ford to recover what it had paid for damages to the vehicle. The insurer argued the car accident was caused by the defective throttle, which caused the decedent to barrel uncontrollably through the intersection. Subsequently, the decedent’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ford as well, making the same allegation. The plaintiffs then filed a third lawsuit against Ford, also alleging the same theory. The plaintiffs, brothers who are now 24 and 26, also sought damages from the decedent’s estate.
The two victims suffered permanent serious facial scarring, as well as numerous ongoing physical ailments and psychological trauma, as a result of the auto accident. Their family struggled to pay the more than $300,000 in medical bills they incurred in the crash.
A case management plan was adopted that consolidated the three cases.
Expert opinions submitted by the plaintiffs noted a “heavily worn throttle cable,” but Ford argued the cause of that wasn’t determined, and it wasn’t clear this was the cause.
Ford later filed for summary judgment, arguing the damage to the cable was caused by the crash and was not due to any defect in design or manufacturing. The trial court granted the company’s motion for summary judgment on the product liability claim, but the Indiana Court of Appeals later reversed.
The injured plaintiffs’ case later went to a jury, which was charged with deciding the degree to which the decedent and Ford may have been liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries. The jurors accepted the argument by Ford that the decedent was solely to blame for the crash and that the decedent’s estate should be responsible for compensating the plaintiffs for their injuries.
The decedent’s estate had a policy limit of $2 million. The plaintiffs had offered to settle for $1.5 million prior to trial, but both defendants declined. An attorney for Ford later said it was important to prove the auto in question was not defective.
Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
Jury finds driver liable in 2009 wreck, March 17, 2017, By Tyler Juranovich, Chronicle Tribune
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Wrongful Death Lawsuit: INDOT Liable for Fatal Indiana Crash, Jan. 16, 2017, Car Accident Lawyer Blog