ERJ staff report (LMH)
Sacramento, California -- A California jury has returned a verdict for victims of a rollover crash of over $70 million (Euro 52 million), including compensatory damages for the family of Tony Mauro, a passenger who died in the crash, in the amount of $17.5 million.
Roger Dreyer of the Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood (DBBW) law firm and Christine Spagnoli of the Greene, Broillet & Wheeler law firm represented the victims. DBBW said in a 16 Nov news release that the verdict is the largest in an automotive product case this year.
According to the news release, a jury determined that Ford Motor Company's conduct was despicable in the handling of a TireReplacement Program in 2002. The jury determined that Ford, which had information about the defective tyres from the tyre manufacturer, Goodyear, failed to provide information to its customer base and owners of E-350 Econoline 15 Passenger Vans.
DBBW said the jury determined that Ford's conscious disregard of consumer safety and refusal to accept any responsibility to alert consumers was a breach of its responsibility as a manufacturer, and awarded punitive damages in the amount of $50 million.
â€œA manufacturer cannot have information that deals with the very fabric of human life, of being alive or being dead, and keep that information to themselves,â€ Roger Dreyer stated after the verdict. â€œWhen corporate arrogance is so clearly palpable in a case like this, there is no excuse for them not providing that information."
On 9 April 2004, an E-350 15 Passenger Van owned by the Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church suffered a catastrophic right-rear tyre tread separation that resulted in the vehicle going out of control, rolling over four times and killing its driver, Bill Brownell, and its front-seat passenger, Tony Mauro.
The evidence included a determination by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) that large vans, like the Ford E-350 15 passenger van, were disproportionately involved in fatal rollover crashes following a tread separation of a rear tyre.
After NHTSA opened a defect investigation into the Load Range E tyres in November, 2000, which was initiated after Spagnoli submitted evidence of 37 incidents involving the Goodyear tyres, Goodyear agreed in February 2002 to replace the older model tyres that had been installed on 15 passenger vans with its new design that included a nylon overlay.
Co-trial counsel, Christine Spagnoli, said, â€œThe evidence we presented established the long history of Ford's knowledge about the dangers of these 15 passenger vans, which are extremely difficult to control in the event of a tyre failure. Ford knew that the Goodyear tyres presented an unreasonable risk on these vans, and chose to keep quiet rather than alert consumers.â€
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Press release from Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood