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Defective Seatbelt Case Awarded $32.5 Million by Jury


Earlier this month a Florida jury awarded $32.5 million to a man who suffered severe brain injuries when the seatbelt shoulder restraint in his 1993 Ford Escort failed during a head-on collision 11 years ago, according to an article published in the legal journal, Lawyers USA. The award came for 37-year-old Mark Force after more than a decade after the accident and two failed trials.

The first trial held in 2003 ended in Ford Motor Co.’s favor. But the appellate court, citing improper jury instruction in 2004 sent it back to trial court. But a second trial ended in a hung jury last year. The most recent trial this month lasted eight days when the six-person jury deliberated for half a day before finding Ford and Mazda – which designed the defective seatbelt system – liable for Force’s severe head injuries.

The plaintiff’s attorney says key evidence in this case included internal documents from Ford and Mazda – 45 complaints about Ford Escort’s seatbelt system. This evidence reportedly convinced jurors that the seatbelt retractor in American Escorts was defective and lacked the safety features used on the same vehicle in Canada. Ford, of course, plans to appeal the verdict. Ford’s attorneys say the seatbelt did its job and in fact saved Force’s life by preventing him from being ejected from the car.

According to the article, Force’s Escort was struck head-on with a Ford Mustang that crossed into his lane while trying to pass another car. Force’s lap belt worked, but the retractor on his shoulder restraint spooled out. As a result Force’s head was thrown forward and slammed into a roof post in front of the car. Force’s attorney maintains that Force’s Escort was not equipped with a “web grabber” device, which normally guarantee lockup of seatbelt systems.

The jury awarded Force’s father and legal guardian, Francis Force, $8.9 million for medical care, $1.6 million for lost earnings and $22 million for pain and suffering, but did not award any punitive damages.

At Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys we repeatedly represent clients who have been injured or have lost loved ones to defective components in automobiles – be it seatbacks, restraint systems, stability (rollover), roof crush or tires. But repeatedly, Ford officials deny that their cars, whether it’s the Escort, Explorer, Expedition or Excursion – have any problems or defects. It takes a great deal of courage, tenacity, work and money to go after a company with so much power and denial at the same time.

Currently we are about to go to trial on an Excursion rollover case where the roof crushed in – parallelizing a very popular Los Angeles school teacher. We have conducted extensive roof crush testing to present to the jury and show them just how the tragic injury occurred, why it occurred and how it could have been prevented for under a $100 at the time of manufacturing.

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