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The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case

Gary T. Schwartz, 43 Rutgers L. Rev. 1013 (1991)

The case of the Ford Pinto, and its alleged tendency to explode in rear-end collisions, provided the occasion for what is universally hailed as our product liability system's finest triumph. Everyone knows that Ford engineers realized the car was defective but decided (in a smoking-gun memo unearthed by trial lawyers) that it would be cheaper to pay off death claims than to change the design. There’s just one problem: what "everyone knows" turns out to be false.




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