By on February 28, 2011

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against Mazda is re-opening at least one more lawsuit against an automaker, noting

The Ford case focuses not on seat belts but on the type of glass the company chose to install in its 1997 F-150 pickup. The plaintiff alleged Ford was liable in the death of a passenger in an F-150 who was ejected during a 2002 accident in which the truck veered off the road and rolled over several times.

The victim wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and his mother alleged he would not have been ejected had Ford installed laminated side windows on the truck instead of using tempered glass. Federal safety regulations gave Ford a choice in which type of windows to install.

The case now goes back to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which ruled last year that the lawsuit was preempted by the federal regulations.

It’s not clear at this point if other OEMs will be vulnerable to re-opened lawsuits based on the Mazda ruling, but don’t be surprised if the Supreme Court’s decision continues to cause legal headaches for automakers.

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31 Comments on “Mazda Ruling Opens The Way For Ford Lawsuit...”

  • avatar

    These are far and away the most ridiculous lawsuits since McDonald’s coffee. Three-point seat belts became available in the 1959 Volvo 544. Can an individual or family sue any manufacturer who did not install such belts from 1959 to 1967?
    Seriously, people like this need to be out of the gene pool. Actually, it’s probably not the plaintiff’s fault; more likely the fault of a shark lawyer.

    • 0 avatar

      The McD’s coffee thing is not as ridiculous as you might think…
      The lady offered to settle for $20k, her medical expenses… McD’s said no.
      During the case, Liebeck’s attorneys discovered that McDonald’s required franchises to serve coffee at 180–190 °F (82–88 °C). At that temperature, the coffee would cause a third-degree burn in two to seven seconds. Stella Liebeck’s attorney argued that coffee should never be served hotter than 140 °F (60 °C), and that a number of other establishments served coffee at a substantially lower temperature than McDonald’s. Liebeck’s lawyers presented the jury with evidence that 180 °F (82 °C) coffee like that McDonald’s served may produce third-degree burns (where skin grafting is necessary) in about 12 to 15 seconds. Lowering the temperature to 160 °F (71 °C) would increase the time for the coffee to produce such a burn to 20 seconds. (A British court later rejected this argument as scientifically false finding that 149 °F (65 °C) liquid could cause deep tissue damage in only two seconds.[16]) Liebeck’s attorneys argued that these extra seconds could provide adequate time to remove the coffee from exposed skin, thereby preventing many burns. McDonald’s claimed that the reason for serving such hot coffee in its drive-through windows was that those who purchased the coffee typically were commuters who wanted to drive a distance with the coffee; the high initial temperature would keep the coffee hot during the trip.[5] However, this contradicts the company’s own research that showed customers actually intend to consume the coffee while driving to their destination.[17]
      Other documents obtained from McDonald’s showed that from 1982 to 1992 the company had received more than 700 reports of people burned by McDonald’s coffee to varying degrees of severity, and had settled claims arising from scalding injuries for more than $500,000.[5] McDonald’s quality control manager, Christopher Appleton, testified that this number of injuries was insufficient to cause the company to evaluate its practices. He argued that all foods hotter than 130 °F (54 °C) constituted a burn hazard, and that restaurants had more pressing dangers to warn about. The plaintiffs argued that Appleton conceded that McDonald’s coffee would burn the mouth and throat if consumed when served.[18]
      That said, the fellow in the truck should’ve had his seatbelt on.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s also worth noting that Ms. Liebeck’s burns required skin grafts to the insides of her thighs. Think about that as you walk down the hall.

    • 0 avatar

      And now you know….the REST of the story.  (Done with Paul Harvey voice and style)

    • 0 avatar

      The popular anecdote leaves out how severely she was burned.  I’ve yet to grasp why injuring yourself a lot instead of injuring yourself a little negates the concept of personal responsibility.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve yet to grasp why injuring yourself a lot instead of injuring yourself a little negates the concept of personal responsibility.

      Personal responsibility was not negated. The woman was found partly responsible for the severity of her burns as a result of the clothing she was wearing at the time. The greater responsibilty, however, lies with McD for handing her a cup of coffee (meant to be consumed) that was heated beyond any possibility of safe consumption.

      Let’s say that you head out this weekend for some shopping. You pick up a number of expensive items that you put in your trunk. Your last stop is to pick up some motor oil for your car. When you hit the ramp to get back on the freeway, the oil bottles tip over, and it turns out that the mfr decided to save some bucks by not putting an internal seal on the bottles so the oil leaks all over your trunk, ruining the trunk liner and all of your new purchases. Is this misfortune entirely your personal responsibilty because you failed to check for seals and secure the oil bottles accordingly, or do you have a reasonable expectation that liquids shipped in top heavy bottles are sealed tightly enough to lie on their sides without leaking?

    • 0 avatar

      She also burned herself while the vehicle was stationary and she was the passenger. She had the cup between her legs and spilled the contents removing the lid trying to add cream and sugar. That’s really dumb.
      I caned a Camry with groceries home and found the carton of OJ had spilled across the trunk. It was completely my fault since I should have put it in a bag and secured it to one of the shopping bag hooks in the trunk. Good thing I had my Shop-Vac.

  • avatar

    Regulations should state clearly that it is illegal to built any vehicles in which anybody could ever die.
    Then the state would take out of the road every car or truck ever built.
    And people will need to stay inside or to wear a Styrofoam jacket and construction helmet.  And if you don’t comply with this and your violation causes your death, then you will be charged with death penalty.

  • avatar

    With laminated glass in the side windows, he may have been sliced and diced, while being ejected. In all but a few exceptional cases, seatbelts save lives!

  • avatar

    No seatbelt + compliance with existing regulations at the time = should be thrown out.
    I’m tired of these families coming back years later for blood money.
    Maybe if her son had buckled up he’d be alive. Why did he veer off the road? Was he drunk? Was he adjusting his radio?
    If I were a judge, this would be tossed so fast it wouldn’t even hit the salad.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I am aware of no mass market production vehicles that use laminated glass in the side windows.
    Laminated glass in the side windows can cause other problems – by making it more difficult to get into a vehicle in which someone is trapped.
    It is an engineering trade-off. Unfortunately, the legal system does not appear to grasp that concept.

    • 0 avatar

      The lawyers are just looking for a pay check.  Absolutely true, laminated side windows will make nearly impossible to get of a car that is in a creek bed with the door lodged or as happened here recently, where a GM Cadillac had its driver’s door jammed into a concrete Jersey barrier with the car engulfed in flames.
      The gent in the engulfed car did survive but with 2nd degree burns.  Had the side windows been made of laminated glass, I doubt that good Samaritans who saved him would have gotten him out in time. Not only did they have to break the glass, but also cut the seat belt to remove the incapacitated driver.
      Surely if the driver was unable to escape the burning vehicle, an attorney somewhere would have sued GM for using laminated glass on the side windows.

    • 0 avatar

      I am aware of no mass market production vehicles that use laminated glass in the side windows.

      It’s actually getting to be fairly common.  I know many Buicks and GM SUVs have laminated glass standard; and I’ve spotted it on several rental cars although I can’t remember exactly what the makes and models are.
      Next time you’re walking though a parking lot and see a new Equinox check out the reg printing on the window.  I bet it says “Laminated”.
      Here’s a link to a case where an Equinox went into some water and the laminated glass (apparently) prevented the occupants from escaping:,159727?ref=mostreadOld

    • 0 avatar

      My 06 Volvo V70R had them standard. Have been standard to at least the 850 in various models in Canada.

  • avatar

    many yrs ago I read from a car mag,
    some lady drove her new air bag equipped  merc down the side of the hill. As she didnt wore any belts either, she met her untimely demise.
    Her heirs did sued merc for false adv and everything under the sun, as merc claimed with the air bag u need nothing else to protect u. little did we know air bags will only help first impact, if u rolled the car then God help u.

  • avatar

    Ford can’t win.  If the guy was severely injured up by a laminated window, Ford would have been sued.  There’s nothing they could have done to force the guy to take responsibility for his own actions.

    I thought people who didn’t wear seat belts want to be thrown clear of the vehicle.  Isn’t that the main argument against seat belts?  It’s true that you will be thrown clear – thrown to your death.

  • avatar

    In warm weather, I typically drive with the window down.  If this happened to me, could I sue for being able to roll down the window?  Shouldn’t the car manufacturer provide a way to automatically roll up the window in the event of a rollover?

  • avatar

    On the seat belt issue with Mazda, I could half way see the point.  In this one, there is no reason this should make it anywhere, and it probably won’t.
    Can the plaintiff produce evidence that if the window was a different material that the occupant would have survived?  Maybe he wouldn’t have been ejected, maybe his head would have been stuck half way through the glass.  It is still very possible that he dies.  But to me, if he isn’t wearing the primary safety device in the car, then there are no grounds.

  • avatar

    Another frivolous lawsuit.  The mother’s lawyer should be ashamed of himself for even taking the case.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Seat belts are there for a reason… use them.  Or risk winning a “Darwin Award.”  Case dismissed.

  • avatar

    One of the most shocking things I learned in law school was that in most states, evidence of whether a a person was or was not wearing a seat belt is generally non admissible for determining contributory negligence.  That law should be changed ASAP wherever it is in place.  If you choose not to wear a seatbelt, you should be responsible for the consequences.

  • avatar

    Forget about the damn glass….did you see how that truck folded during the collision video. So much for the passenger compoartment staying intact. That dummy is dead!

    • 0 avatar

      Crumple zones are great, right up to the point where the speed of the vehicle exceeds the crumple zone’s ability to absorb the impact. Any left over velocity is promptly transferred to the occupants.
      Pickups look beefy but the reality is they are really flimsy. The bed floats on the frame and is not an integral part of the passenger compartment. If you have a large V8 engine, front drive and transfer case then you have a pretty good battering ram and some mass up front.  A 2 wheel drive with a v-6 or inline 6 engine means lots of air instead of metal.
      Imagine that accident with 1500 lbs of bricks in back. Bye Bye black sheep.

    • 0 avatar

      After you watch the crash test of an ’01 F-150 check out the same test on an ’08.

      Night and day.

      Yup, some things do get better.

  • avatar

    Maybe we should have people sign releases when they get their driver licenses that state if they fail to wear seatbelts they can’t sue anyone for anything. And if the are drunk, speeding, fleeing police, etc they don;t get squat either.
    Better yet, they should take the bus and not even drive.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of 1997 vehicles used tempered, not laminated, glass for the side windows.

  • avatar

    That F150 crash test video shows just how badly Chinese vehicles are designed and built… shocking crash test result.  They should not be allowed into the country.  Mmm, what?  It wasn’t Chinese?  Never mind then.

  • avatar

    America is FAR too litigious of a nation, the fact that automakers spend more money defending lawsuits that they do on research and development tells you all you need to know about how destructive our sue-happy culture has become to society.
    Cars are dangerous, period.  Ford was not negligent, the dumbass who drove off the side of the road without his seatbelt was.
    We need a “loser pays” system like they have in most countries in Europe.  If you sue a company or an individual and lose, you’re responsible for ALL legal fees.  That would cut 90% of the frivolous lawsuits.

  • avatar

    I’d like to complain about the state of railroad tracks in the 1840s. Due to outright cheapness on the part of RR companies, iron strips were laid on pine or spruce board to make the rolling surface. As the strips often came loose, it was not uncommon for these lengths of metal to curl up, punch through the floor of carriages and kill people. They were called “snakes”.
    My contention is that the RR companies ought to or should have known that this kind of thing would happen, and are legally liable for the deaths and injuries caused by their obvious callousness towards other humans.
    Even if it was 170 years ago.
    I’m pleading on behalf of Aunt Bertha, my great, great, great aunt on my mother’s side, who was speared by a “snake” and died a gruesome death on the Upper Plockitockit and Tamarack RR. The family needs closure, as four generations have grieved her unhappy and untimely death, and we need to buy more Kleenex and a little estate in the country for our troubles.
    Liability issues killed the US light aircraft industry, and now a bunch of idiotic “judges” want to do the same for the car industry.

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