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Product Liability: 2000 Ford Sued Over Failure to Use Laminated Glass

A number of product liability lawyers will agree that auto product defects are a danger to passengers and other drivers on the road. In 2003, 19-year old Saul Guerrero Jr. was driving his 2000 Explorer XLS in Zavala County, Texas with several passengers. When the road ahead abruptly changed from asphalt pavement to caliche (a road surfaced with sand or clay impregnated with crystalline salts), Guerrero lost control and the Explorer skidded sideways and rolled over. As it rolled, the Explorer's door glass shattered and passengers Corina Garcia and Diana Alicia Alonzo, both 19, were thrown from the vehicle and killed. Saul and another passenger, Arturo Guerrero, 18, were also ejected but not seriously injured.

Motor vehicle defect attorneys representing Rosanna Garcia and Arturo Guerrero Jr. filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company. They argued that most of the blame lay with the car maker for using tempered side glass, and that Ford knew for over 30 years that laminated glass posed a reduced risk of ejecting passengers in a car accident. Plaintiffs' attorneys admitted that Saul Guerrero caused the car crash but insisted that Ford caused the injury and the deaths. They presented overwhelming evidence that Ford had access to a safer glass they could have used for the Explorer's side windows. This slight change in material would have cost them just $6 to $10 per car.

"American car makers began using laminated glass for windshields in the late 1920s and soon afterward switched to laminated glass on all windows," noted nationally recognized products liability attorney, John Bisnar. "But the 1950s and 60s, the car industry began using tempered glass in the non-windshield windows to save money. Some late-model luxury cars, certain pickup trucks, SUVs and vans have laminated-glass side, roof and rear windows, but most vehicles still lack this added level of protection, limiting the use of laminated glass to windshields."

Ford lawyers countered, claiming the Explorer's glass met all safety standards. The company now uses laminated side glass in some of its more expensive models, yet they insisted that increased safety wasn't the main reason for the switch. They remained "dug in" in their position that driver impairment caused the car accident, contenting that Guerrero was driving too fast on a caliche road at 2:30 in the morning, and that none of the occupants were wearing seat belts. They concluded that 98 percent of car accident victims walk away from vehicle rollovers if they are wearing seat belts.

"This is another example of a major car maker hiding behind weak government standards and shifting the blame to the driver, the road, seatbelt use, even the time of night for this tragedy," observed John Bisnar.

A Texas jury reached a decision in just six hours, finding Ford 90 percent responsible for the deaths and Guerrero Jr. 10 percent responsible. They awarded $15 million each to the Alonzo and Garcia families; $500,000 to the third passenger, Arturo Guerrero Jr.; and $500,000 in punitive damages against Ford.

"The courage and conviction of these injured families in pursuing Ford Motor Company while suffering from such a tragic loss is to be commended," said Brian Chase of the nationally recognized Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys defective product law firm. "This tragedy could have been prevented if Ford had simply continued making windows the way they did three decades ago, using laminated glass on all vehicle windows. Hopefully, these product liability lawsuits, and the many lawsuits we have filed against Ford and other car makers will convince them to rethink their "profits over pain" approach and install safer glass in all vehicle windows."

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries as the result of a defective auto part or vehicle, contact the experienced California auto products liability attorneys at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation. We will use our extensive knowledge and resources to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.

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