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Alabama Woman Awarded $8.5M In SUV Liability Lawsuit

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Sunday, October 18, 2009 10:54 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Product Liability, SUV Rollover, Ford Motor Company, Car Accident, Defective and Dangerous Products

InjuryBoard Member - Cusimano, Keener, Roberts & Raley, P.C.


IMAGE SOURCE: © Cusimano, Keener, Roberts & Raley Web site

An Alabama woman was awarded an $8.5 million judgment by an Etowah County Circuit Court jury last week in an SUV product liability case.

Latoya Duckett, 22, was a passenger in the Mercury Mountaineer that suddenly veered to the left to avoid another vehicle, lost control and rolled over four-and-a-half times. The SUV ultimately came to rest upside down in oncoming traffic.

The month-long trial, which began September 14, concerned a 2005 lawsuit filed against Ford Motor Company over a rollover crash which occurred in 2003. The accident killed two people and injured two others, including Duckett.

Willie Gary of the law firm Gary, Williams, Finney, Lewis, Watson & Sperando, Joel Rosen of Pennsylvania and Jason Knowles of Cusimano, Keener, Roberts, Knowles & Raley argued that Ford Motor Co. negligently designed, manufactured, produced and distributed the Mercury Mountaineer, which caused the accident.

The trial team argued that the Mountaineer involved in the accident was defective and dangerous and failed to possess sufficient stability to prevent it from rolling over onto its side and roof during anticipated traffic maneuvers. The company was aware of this defect but refused to make the necessary corrections.

As a result of the accident, Duckett sustained significant injuries. Her right leg was amputated just below the knee and her left arm is paralyzed. She also suffered some brain damage, but according to Knowles, she stilll earned a master's degree.

"Ford Motor Company took a calculated risk by manufacturing defective vehicles," commented Willie Gary. "As a result of their negligence, our client suffered loss of her right leg. No amount of money will ever be able to replace her leg or her quality of life. “We hope that this verdict will send a message to all manufacturers to cure or recall vehicles with known defects that can destroy the life and health of our citizens,” Knowles said.

This was the largest verdict in Etowah County history and broke the $5 million verdict set by Greg Cusimano and Mike Roberts of the same Gadsden law firm in 1985. #


Posted by Mark Bello
Monday, October 19, 2009 9:41 AM EST

I wrote an earlier post about this case without knowing that an IB member was counsel. The post dealt with citizen comments about the article that first reported the verdict. Some citizens opined that verdicts like this were "killing business". I posed the question: Which is more important "Human Life" or "Business Life"? ( LINK ) Surprisingly, the post received no comments from IB members or citizens. Congratulations to all on a fair verdict considering the terrible injuries suffered by Ms. Duckett; my sympathies to all the family members who lost loved ones in this horrible accident.

Posted by Darren Wilson
Monday, October 19, 2009 10:28 AM EST

I think folks who suggest that trials decided in favor of the plaintiff in these defective product cases are "killing businesses" and passing the cost on the "the rest of us" (btw, the people hurt and killed are most always those among "the rest of us") are failing to calculate

a) the cost of caring for those people (and their dependents) for the rest of their lives,

b) that cost greatly magnified by the removal of penalties/incentives for manufacturers to make safe products

c) the financial and economic benefits created by the research, design, manufacture, and competitive advantage created by motivating safer products.

For starters - there's also upholding the ideals of fairness and justice.

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, October 19, 2009 11:03 AM EST


Thank you for pointing out your post, I had missed it. I updated my post to include a link to it in the "Learn More" section. It is definitely worth a read.

Darren, I couldn't agree more. Thanks for the comment.

Posted by Brett Emison
Monday, October 19, 2009 11:30 AM EST

Darren -- your comments are particularly timely in light of the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. Many in Congress did not realize that GM and Chrysler were attempted to discharge liability for all vehicles manufactured before June 2009 in the bankruptcy. Doing so would have shifted the costs of these defective vehicles to either (1) the unfortunate victims of accidents; or more likely (2) state governments and tax payers as Medicaid and Medicare programs paid for the care of those injured by these defective products. Why should taxpayers subsize the poor design decisions of auto-makers?

Fortunately, groups like InjuryBoard, AAJ, AIEG, and other safety groups put enough pressure on Congress that GM and Chrysler have voluntarily assumed liability for "new" accidents involving these "old" cars and will be compensate those who are injured or killed by their defective products.

Anonymous User
Posted by badbiker in Colorado
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 1:48 AM EST

I can't believe what I am readng. "Congratulations to all on a fair verdict considering the terrible injuries suffered by Ms. Duckett." This was not a fair verdict. How can an auto manufacturer be held liable when someone makes a sharp left turn at highway speed to "avoid another vehicle?" That's just bad driving and no vehicle made by any manufacturer, ever, can do that without crashing. Well, I guess they are liable, to the tune of $8.5 mil! Hate to tell you folks, but you just raised the cost of every Ford-built vehicle by a couple of bucks for the next year. Of course, lawyers don't care about that. When you need a new car, you just sue somebody and they'll buy it for you. The rest of us "regular folks" are the ones who pay the real price. These blog posts keep refering to "defective products." That's a personal injury lawyer catch phrase. The Moutaineer is not a defective product. The defect is in the legal system that allows you people to bring baseless lawsuits against innocent defendants. Shame, shame, shame on the law firm of Gary, Williams, Finney, Lewis, Watson & Sperando, Joel Rosen of Pennsylvania and Jason Knowles who brought this lawsuit.

Granted, some lawsuits are justified. There really are defective products out there that legitimately cause accidents resulting in injuries. But these are so few and far between that it seems like you personal injury lawyers have to go after every and any manufacturer and hope for a big payoff to make a profit for the year. Of course I realize that nothing I say here will make a difference. This is who you are and I can't change how you were raised. But MY parents taught me to believe in the truth and to fight for what's right. I am ashamed to be an American, who is a part of the legal system that allows this kind of travesty to happen.

Comments for this article are closed.

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