• Dec 1st 2009 at 9:29AM
  • 73
According to The Detroit News, the Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that Ford Motor Company is at fault for a 2002 rollover crash involving a 1997 Ford Explorer and the Dearborn, MI-based automaker must pay $55 million in punitive damages. Benetta Buell-Wilson's Explorer rolled over four-and-a-half times after she swerved to avoid debris. When the roof collapsed on her neck, it severed her spinal cord and left her paralyzed.

Ford unsuccessfully argued that it shouldn't be punished due to the fact that the Explorer complied with federal safety standards when it was built. Buell-Wilson was originally awarded $369 million in damages, but a pair of California courts cut down the total value of damages to $82.6 million.

[Source: The Detroit News]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ford had the makings of a runaway success - but put out an unfinished vehicle which it marketed heavily to familys and soccer moms as a safe vehicle with off road image (b/c of the false sense of security of increased mass).

      Essentially Ford took a light duty pickup truck chassis (Ranger) - significantly increased the center of gravity and mass yet did very little to offset the tippy nature of it over 45 mph (in other words spent little on addressing the suspension and center of gravity concerns - internal Ford engineer memos stated its instability at high speeds). To exacerbate the problem by trying to get better fuel mileage Ford installed basically a passenger tire on a truck (the Firestone debacle). In Venezuela the Explorers had this exact same problem (it was a US Spec Explorer) and they recalled them to install the Australian and Middle East spec rear suspension - better struts/springs front and rear. However, they did not do it for the US models b/c they were selling 50k+ a month (would cost too much money) and it would have hit profits substantially - but as Ford has yet to learn - customer goodwill pays you back in the long run where you take care of them.

      That said, it seems Mulally is finally taking them in the right direction.
      • 5 Years Ago
      These Explorers had roll over problems for years. They all have stability control now. They also had collapsing roofs for years. Just because it "meets regulations" does not mean that Ford didn't spend millions lobbying for Congress not to change the laws. They only had lining their own pockets in mind. Money always trumps the safety of the consumer until a certain number of people end up in wheelchairs or die.

      If there weren't lawsuits like this, you would not have stability control or better safety.

      I've been killing Toyota lately, but Ford is no different.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Doesn't anyone else think the consumer is partially for these enormous gas-hogs / road blockers? Let us not forget, these monstrosities are a product of consumers demanding bigger and bigger SUV's (especially during the time the rollovers were happening). I don't feel any sympathy for people who drive SUV's, perhaps if there were less worried about status symbol and their ego, they would drive something that has far lesser chances of flipping over...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Stupid Ford, should have been like Toyota and destroyed/concealed evidence....
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Explorer was a defective product. That point can not be argued. It was proven in many of the court cases that the suspension design was defective and Ford made up for this by sending the trucks out with under inflated tires.

      Ford contacted Firestone to check if the specs were within safety guidelines. They were and met government regulations, BY 2 PSI !!! Ford filled the tires to 2 psi above the minimum safe specs at the factory and sold the vehicles. While they met regulations it became a pretty glaring fact that many of these vehicles would fall below the safety threshold just sitting on dealers lots.

      While I am smart enough to check my tire pressure every week the majority of people barely even check tire pressure monthly. Some people never do. The problem was made even worse by greedy gas stations that started charging $1 to use an air pump that lasts almost long enough to fill one tire. The government has regulated that all cars need tire pressure sensors but they haven't made a regulation that gas stations should have to provide air for free.

      If a faulty suspension design and under inflated tires weren't enough to make Ford liable the faulty design of the roof was enough. Ford engineers told the higher ups that the body on frame design wasn't strong enough for the proposed design of the vehicle. People forget that the tougher rollover and roof crush specifications were added as regulations because of the Explorer. However, you can make the case that Ford shouldn't have been held liable because the regulations weren't actually in place at the time of the vehicles manufacturing. Still when your engineers tell you that the design is flawed and the roof is going to collapse like a cheap piece of canvas maybe you should listen to them.

      The Explorer is taught in auto design schools as how not to design a vehicle. It was a dangerous piece of garbage that was allowed to be sold because it was cheap to manufacture and made huge profits. Perhaps if the stupid thing never made it past the planning stage we wouldn't have had the SUV boom, the fuel shock, and the idiotic green SUV hating movement.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is insane. If the car was so bad how it was approved by the test at that time? If you need someone to blame, blame the feds, their tests sucked.

      So, now I am heading for a C4C warehouse and grab the worst POS they have there, run it into a tree and have at least a broken arm or leg, then I am gonna take a look at the rear of the car, acknowledge the maker and sue it for make such an unsafe vehicle...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Even if the Ford Explorer is of a poor design, the consumer must bear some responsibility for buying a vehicle that is obviously not the safest for emergency maneuvers.

      I can't stand people that buy tall SUVs and then are surprised that their vehicle rolled over when they flick the wheel hard left and right or slide sideways into a curb.

      What really makes for a safe vehicle anymore? If I crash my car at insanely high speed into a wall and break a leg, do I sue? Should I be able to walk away without a scratch after flipping my car and striking a tree like they do in Rally? Should road cars have full roll cages, racing seats, four point harnesses, and fire extinguishers?

      Bottom line is there is always going to be a car on the market that is less safe than others. And one that is least safe.

        Kim in California
        • 1 Year Ago
        Really? Ford admitted she was driving safely and that she did nothing wrong when she swerved to avoid the metal flying at her windshield. She wasn't speeding into a wall at an insanely high speed...she was driving responsibly. And Ford not only knew that their redesign of the Explorer had increased its chances of rolling over, they decreased the metal in the roofs on purpose to give them a higher profit margin on the SUV. They knew that they had a walking time bomb, a SUV that was more prone to roll over if someone swerved to avoid a child, an animal, debris, etc. but during that roll over the roof was more likely to collapse because of the decrease in the metal structure of the roof in 1991. And by the way, Ford advertised their car as being safe, even showing soccer moms driving a carload of kids to soccer practice, camping, etc. Benetta was an avid hiker, camper, backpacker, and sportsperson. She often filled the SUV so it wasn't as if she didn't need the space. Believe me, if Ford could have blamed Benetta for the accident, they would have...they spent MILLIONS on the trial trying to fight the allegations. But twelve people from all walks of life came together, spent months listening to the evidence, and spanked Ford for its defective product that they advertised was safe.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Isn't this the same model of Exploder that kept flipping because its tires popped at normal speed?

      Why is everyone defending Ford on this but bashing Toyota when people use the wrong floor mats and get hurt?

      Very interesting indeed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Swerving to avoid debris is an instinctive thing a lot of people would do. Who knows, it might have been something big, like a ladder Running over the debris might have caused an accident, too. I don't know how old that woman is, but she'll likely need lots of money for care as long as she lives, and no insurance to cover it.

      Yes, I know lawsuits are out of control, but I feel some sympathy for the woman. Imagine having having to be her.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If it was not Ford's fault why should they have to pay 55 million?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think the 300+ million is a lot but $55 million doesn't seem like all that much of a problem. It's a lot of money yes, but I would definitely want that if my car caused me to be paralyzed for life.. I mean think about it. I would probably want to kill myself if I couldn't move... Don't forget how much medical bills shes' going to have, doctors, surgeries, wheelchair, caretakers..and the list doesn't stop. If Ford was at the applicable safety standards for that model year, I think it is a problem that she is getting that much money for something that did what it was designed to do, although it could have been stronger. My friend rolled his '98 Grand Cherokee 3 times and the roof did not cave in. I do not know the crash details but the vehicle certainly could have been better designed. I think I've heard of Ford being sued hundreds of times for this exact issue.
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