News & Insights

Ford Wins Trial On Products Liability

Dykema Prevails with Defense Verdict in Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Trial of Vehicle Fire

June 25, 2009

Bloomfield Hills

Dykema’s elite Automotive Industry Team won a defense verdict for Ford Motor Company in a product liability action brought by Sergio Ayala and Rufino and Marcella Garcia on behalf of decedent, Javier Garcia. The Garcias and Ayala alleged that a defect in the 1997 Ford Explorer caused a fire after the vehicle struck a tree at high speed. The case arose from a March 2005 accident in which Ayala, the driver of the Explorer who had also been drinking alcohol before the accident, suffered serious burn injuries and Javier Garcia, who was lying down in the rear cargo area, died.

"We are very pleased that the jury considered all of the evidence presented in this case and determined that Ford is not liable for the fire in question," said Clay Guise, a member of Dykema’s Automotive Industry Team and counsel for Ford.

The Garcias alleged that Ford’s failure to properly shield the Explorer’s exhaust system from engine fluids caused a fire that ignited after the SUV struck a tree at approximately 60 mph. Ford and Dykema countered, arguing that the Explorer is safe, no vehicle can eliminate all potential hazards and no vehicle is designed to perform in accidents as severe as this one.

A St. Louis, Mo. jury ruled in favor of Ford, rejecting the product claims filed by the plaintiffs who had sought a combined $17 million.

Guise tried this case with Stephen Strauss, a products liability attorney from Bryan Cave in St. Louis.