Bowman and Brooke

VERDICTS & CASE STUDIES

Each year, Law360.com publishes "Product Liability Cases to Watch." In 2013, two of the seven cases highlighted are being defended by Bowman and Brooke trial lawyers.

Simmer v. Ford

Michigan
Jul 11, 2005

CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.

Lansing Jury says Ford Festiva safety belt not defective

LANSING, MI - On Monday July 11, 2005, in Lansing, MI, a jury of three men and five women returned a verdict in favor of Ford Motor Company. The jury found that the 1992 Ford Festiva’s passive safety belt was not defective nor was it responsible for the death of Antoinette Simmer. Her son, plaintiff Erik Simmer, claimed during the three-week trial, that the Festiva’s passive restraint system caused his mother’s fatal injuries, by compressing her chest and causing a ruptured aorta and a severe injury to her liver.

The case arose from a 1999 two-car collision, in a busy intersection near the campus of Michigan State University, where Mrs. Simmer was a long time secretary to the math department. The Festiva, a small and light vehicle was traveling at a high speed, estimated to be between 40 and 44 miles per hour, when the collision occurred. Given the rate of speed when the two cars collided, Ford argued Mrs. Simmer had very little chance of survival. As defense expert Dan Girvan described it on cross examination, she would have had a better chance of surviving a game of Russian roulette, regardless of the design of the passive restraint system.

The passive restraint system used in the Festiva met and exceeded the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standard that must be met before a vehicle can be sold in the United States, and it performed as designed in the collision.

At trial, the defense argued that Mrs. Simmer who was speeding, and the driver of the second vehicle who was charged with negligent homicide, and then pled to a lesser charge, caused the severe crash, which was the sole cause of Mrs. Simmer’s death. Ford also argued that it did everything within the law and beyond to ensure the safety of the Festiva. The defense was able to prove that Ford was not responsible for Mrs. Simmer’s fatal injuries.

The jury deliberated for three and a half hours before returning a verdict in favor of Ford Motor Company and awarding the plaintiff nothing.

Case Name: Erik Simmer, personal representative of the Estate of Antoinette Simmer v. Ford Motor Company.

Case Number: 01-94205-NP

Judge: Beverly Nettles-Nickerson

Court: Ingham County Circuit Court

Attorney for the Plaintiff: B.A. Tyler of Sommers, Schwartz, Silver & Schwartz, P.C. in Southfield Michigan.

Attorneys for Ford Motor Company:  Tom Branigan and Jeffery Gorcyca of Bowman and Brooke’s Detroit office.

Experts for the Plaintiff: Dr. Martha Bidez (Biomechanics) Birmingham, Alabama; Dr. Stan Smith (Economist) Chicago, Illinois; Lou D’Aulerio (restraint systems) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Steve Meyer (accident reconstructionist) Santa Barbara, California.

Experts for the Defense: Dr. Geoff Germane (accident reconstructionist) Provo, Utah; Dan Girvan, (Biomechanics), San Carlos, California; Roger Maugh (restraints) Ann Arbor, Michigan; Roger Wagoner (restraints) Troy, Michigan; and Howard Slater (Ford Motor Company Representative).

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