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Product Liability: 1988 Bronco II SUV Rollover Danger

Most product liability attorneys can tell you that rollover accidents are dangerous to everyone involved. In 1996, Richard Raimondi, a 53-year-old insurance executive, turned his 1988 Bronco II quickly to avoid a tire on the freeway near Fremont, California. The SUV rolled over four times, leaving Raimondi a quadriplegic, unable to breathe without the assistance of a ventilator. After years of suffering--and after the trial against Ford had run its course--Raimondi eventually died in 2000.

In their suit against Ford, the Raimondi family alleged that the Bronco II SUV should never have been sold. Specifically, the suit maintained that Ford knowingly designed and built a dangerous, unstable SUV so that it could quickly enter a competitive market. To demonstrate the Bronco II's instability, the plaintiffs obtained a near-duplicate vehicle and ran instrumented and videotaped stability testing that dramatically revealed its dangers.

"SUVs and pickups have a higher center of gravity than most other vehicles and have a greater tendency to roll over in a car collision, sudden steering correction or car accident," noted nationally recognized product liability lawyer, John Bisnar. "While rollover accidents account for only about 3% of all car crashes in the U.S., almost a third of all highway deaths are the result of rollovers."

"The Bronco II was introduced in 1983 on the heels of General Motors' popular S019 Blazer and American Motors' Jeep CJ7," said Bisnar. "In its rush to put Bronco IIs in showrooms, Ford hastily designed and manufactured an SUV that was too tall in relationship to its track width, using its existing small pickup chassis. Realistically--and regrettably--Ford could have designed a safer Bronco II for about $82 per vehicle. Instead, it chose to make 700,000 such trucks between 1983 and 1990, endangering the lives and safety of its customers."

After two months of testimony, the jury found the Bronco II's design defective and awarded Raimondi $38.7 million. They awarded his wife, Dana Raimondi $13 million for loss of consortium--the largest amount in U.S. history. The total $52.7 million verdict was one of the largest "mid range" product liability verdicts of 2000, defined as those over $30 million, according to the National Law Journal. The jury reduced the total damages by half for Raimondi's comparative fault, for a net judgment of just under $26 million.

Ford fought vigorously, appealing the jury verdict, saying the plaintiff's driving and the force of the car collision were at fault, not the vehicle. The jury, the trial judge and the court of appeals, all disagreed. "They came to the same conclusion," observed John Bisnar. "That this tragedy was caused by an ill-conceived and defectively designed vehicle that should never have been allowed to be sold to the car-buying public."

"Here's a perfect example of a car maker ignoring safe design principles so it can rush a product to market," observed Brian Chase of the nationally recognized auto defects law firm of Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys. "Ford had the resources and the ability to make a safer SUV, but it chose not to and people like Richard Raimondi paid the price. As evidenced by the clear outcome, taking Ford to court was the right thing to do and shows our justice system at work. The jury's award is America's message to Ford that their failure to act was not acceptable. Hopefully, this product liability lawsuit will help convince Ford to respond effectively to known safety defects in order to prevent injuring people."

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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