Back in 2005, Ford was ordered to pay some $43m to the Jablonski family whose Lincoln Town Car had caught fire after being rear-ended. According to the Associated Press:
As a result of the crash, according to the ruling, a large pipe wrench in the Jablonski car’s [trunk] was propelled into the vehicle’s gas tank, causing the blaze.
Attorneys for the family argued during the 11-day trial that the fuel tank’s positioning behind axle was among things flawed in the car’s construction, and that Ford should have warned car owners or retrofitted the vehicles with safety devices.
Ford countered that no similar accidents had occurred involving the same Town Car model as the one driven by John Jablonski, that the vehicle’s fuel tank was in “the optimum location for that car,” and that the crash should be blamed on the motorist who rear-ended the Jablonskis.
That ruling, with its echoes of the Pinto fiasco, could have validated a long-cherished belief of the personal injury attorney profession: that gas tanks rear of the rear axle are fundamentally dangerous (see above). Of course that’s not the case, and the Town Car in question was given a five-star safety rating by NHTSA. Accordingly, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out the ruling, finding that
the lawsuit on Dora and John Jablonski’s behalf did not give sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude Ford negligently “breached its duty of reasonable care” in designing the Lincoln Town Car