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.
Unanimous Defense Verdict in California Liftgate Trial for Ford
After a trial lasting more than a month in Van Nuys, California, a jury delivered a unanimous and complete defense verdict in less than an hour on behalf of Ford Motor Company on February 17, 2017 in the case of Micaela and Donald Bensko v. Ford Motor Company. Plaintiffs sought in excess of $23,000,000 in damages allegedly caused by a defect in their 2011 Ford Flex. Specifically, it was alleged that the design of the power liftgate on the Ford Flex created an unreasonably dangerous condition. As a result of the injuries sustained on this day, and resulting surgeries, Ms. Bensko presented to trial in a wheelchair and with claims of overwhelming and unrelenting pain for the rest of her life (40 years).
The first question the jury was asked to answer was whether the risks of the design outweighed the benefits of the Ford Flex. The defense therefore focused on the diligent design and thorough testing that went into the design, manufacture and sale of the Flex, including the liftgate. In addition to presenting a defense based on no substantial risk that outweighed the benefits of the vehicle, the defense included a thorough review of the state of the art of the industry as it related to power liftgates in the 2011 timeframe.
While the jury did not reach any additional questions, much of the case was spent on the issue of causation and CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome). In this matter, Ford focused on specific causation by presenting evidence that the maximum potential forces involved in the liftgate were insufficient, based on biomechanical testimony, to cause the injuries alleged. Ford went well beyond the traditional use of medical records and put in hundreds of pages of plaintiff's social media to establish inconsistencies with her sworn testimony about the nature, extent and duration of her injury and presented evidence of Ms. Bensko's significant history of a lifetime of traumas, each of which had an impact on Ms. Bensko's spine, resulting in the mechanical issues she alleged. There were also substantial psychological issues with this plaintiff that were tried.