Motor Vehicle Defect Found in 1985 Ford Mercury Grand Marquis After Exploding Gas Tank Incident
Motor vehicle defect attorneys have noted dangerous exploding gas tanks. One such story of a woman in her 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis comes to mind. The woman was waiting to make a left turn on U.S. Highway 129 in Georgia, when a pickup slammed into her car. She was hit again when her car was forced into oncoming traffic. Bolts from a trailer hitch gouged into her car’s gas tank, causing it to burst into flames. The passenger doors jammed and Gibson’s seat collapsed, dropping her back into the flames. She burned to death at the scene.
Gibson’s widower, Artumus Gibson, filed suit against Ford and the manufacturer of the trailer-hitch, Draw-Tite. Gibson’s auto product liability attorney noted that as many as 50 other people had been killed or seriously burned in similar defective product accidents involving Fords. He added that Ford’s exploding gas tanks continue on the road, and that Ford had “never warned a soul.”
In the 1970’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) researchers concluded that available technology, such as safe tank location, shut off valves, steel fuel lines and bladders existed to protect occupants who survived 65-mph rear impacts from fire deaths. The fact remains that Ford has a long history of denying safety defects, not only in the face of a documented safety defect but also in egregious safety defects that Ford subsequently had to recall cars in a firestorm of public outcry.
Ford refused to release information about other product liability suits filed in similar cases of exploding gas tanks. It chose to only release a brief statement about the Gibson case. The judge ruled that if Ford wouldn’t supply the files, then the jury should consider it an admission that the seats and fuel tank were defectively designed.
The Athens-Clarke County jury handed down a verdict of $13 million to the widower.
A Ford spokesman complained that Ford had not received a fair trial in this case. In its appeal, Ford contested a decision by the state court to punish the automaker for refusing to turn over records about car crash tests it had conducted on that model. Ford contended the documents should remain confidential as attorney-client communications.
The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the Athens-Clarke County jury’s verdict. It stated that the requested evidence had documented past car-to-car crash tests conducted by Ford on vehicles that included the Mercury Marquis. And that these cars had similar fuel tank locations and performance as the Mercury Marquis driven by Ms. Gibson at the time of the defective fuel tank incident. This evidence could have shown Ford’s prior, direct knowledge of fuel system, car door, and seat back design problems in car-to-car collisions such as the one that resulted in Ms. Gibson’s death.
This is an important decision because it was based on the fact that Ford refused to turn over relevant car crash data in the case that it was required by law to provide to plaintiffs. The Georgia Supreme Court basically said that they would hold big corporations, including car manufacturers, to the letter of the law.
Artumus Gibson, grief stricken over his wife’s tragic death, summoned the courage to confront a giant automaker. Holding Ford accountable for a needlessly defective car is a highly commendable act that undoubtedly alerted others to this potential danger. Our hope is that these lawsuits, and the many lawsuits we have filed against Ford and other automakers will convince them to design safer, more crashworthy vehicles and prevent others from being seriously injured or killed.
I wish to extend our sincerest condolences to Artumus Gibson for his devastating and irreplaceable loss.