Charleston, West Virginia – An appeals court in West Virginia has overturned a $7 million award in a product liability lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. The lawsuit was filed by the family of a woman who died in a fiery crash involving her Ford Mustang. The West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals has sent the case back to Kanawha County Circuit Court for a new trial.
The jury in the original trial found Ford to be 99% responsible for the death of Breanna Bumgarner in 2016 and awarded her family $7 million last year. According to court records, Bumgarner’s 2014 Mustang was hit by a pickup truck that crossed the center line on U.S. Route 33 near Spencer in Roane County. The Mustang caught fire, trapping Bumgarner inside. The lawsuit also implicated the 16-year-old driver of the pickup truck and her parents as defendants.
The plaintiff’s attorneys argued that the design of the Mustang’s brake fluid reservoir did not offer enough protection in the crash, resulting in the fire. The jury agreed, concluding that the design was not adequate in preventing leakage during accidents.
However, the appeals court sided with Ford’s argument that claims of negligent design require evidence of a reasonable alternative design to establish the existence of a defect. The court also noted that the jury should have received proper instruction on this requirement.
This decision by the appeals court highlights the significance of presenting evidence of a reasonable alternative design when making claims of negligent design in product liability cases. The ruling emphasizes the need for clear instructions to juries on legal requirements during trial proceedings.
The West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial in this case, which means that the issue of Ford’s liability for Bumgarner’s death will be reconsidered. The outcome of the new trial may have significant implications for future product liability cases involving car manufacturers.
It is important to note that the appeals court’s reversal of the $7 million award does not absolve Ford of responsibility for the accident. Rather, it addresses the legal standard for proving a defect in the design of the vehicle.
In conclusion, the appeals court in West Virginia has overturned a $7 million award in a product liability lawsuit against Ford in a case involving a fatal fiery crash. The court found that the original jury should have been properly instructed on the requirement for evidence of a reasonable alternative design when considering claims of negligent design. The case has been sent back to the lower court for a new trial.