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New Trial Ordered in $15M Ford Case



The Associated Press reports that a federal District judge has ordered a new trial because of abusive closing arguments by plaintiffs' counsel, after a $15 million judgement in a Ford Explorer rollover case.

Tulsa Jeweler Kevin Moody lost control of his 1995 Ford Explorer while he was passing another vehicle while speeding, in a no-passing zone on a curve, according to court records. The sport utility vehicle left the road and rolled at least 1 1/2 times, coming to rest on its roof. Moody's young son died in the crash.

Moody's lawyer told the jury that the Explorer's roof collapsed when the vehicle went through what he termed a relatively slow, easy roll. In his closing argument, the lawyer said the part that gave way was made of "spindly little pieces of metal engineered down to an unacceptable level to save money."

Ford contends that the vehicle actually exceeded federal standards. Ford's lawyer told the jury that Mr. Moody made "bad decisions that had fatal consequences."

On Jan. 5, U.S. Chief District Judge Claire Eagan added more than $3.3 million in prejudgment interest on the $15 million verdict.

But this week Judge Eagan wrote in her order for a new trial that personal attacks on Ford witnesses and attorneys, "along with plaintiffs' counsel's improper conduct, leaves this court with a firm conviction that Ford did not receive a fair trial."

During his closing arguments plaintiff's lawyer "blatantly suggested that Ford Explorers were responsible for 10,000 deaths per year, and he had the temerity to compare this improper suggestion to the number of deaths in the Iraq War," wrote the judge. This statement alone likely prejudiced Ford's case and that because it was made in the final portion of Brewster's closing argument, "Ford had no opportunity to respond or cure any resulting prejudice."

 

 


Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.