Illinois Supreme Court: Come On Baby, Don't Fear The Panther

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Zerofoo Zerofoo on Nov 03, 2011

    My Grand Cherokee has been criticized for a similar design flaw, yet I still put my family in the vehicle daily. There are thousands upon thousands of Panthers and Grand Cherokees on the road, yet I don't hear about them exploding all that often. I suspect the risk is overstated.

  • SevenIM SevenIM on Nov 04, 2011

    When I saw the image and read the headline, I assumed it was going to be about how Illinois is pushing to keep using Crown Vics in their police fleet. I was prepared to go on a rant about how the IL government is only doing this because they are broke and they are so bad at coming up with a sound budget that its actually hilarious. Then I read the article and realized that I got excited over nothing. Oh well.

  • GS650G GS650G on Nov 04, 2011

    They should sue the oil company for making gasoline so flammable and not incorporating a fire retardant into the fuel. After all, oil companies are so rich.

  • 50merc 50merc on Nov 04, 2011

    All those Crown Vic and Pinto stories prove I'm super smart to drive a Model A, which has the gas tank in the perfect location--in my lap. I can look at the gas gauge and see the fuel sloshing.