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Dolan v. Ford

Dec 07, 2006


Macomb County Jury Finds Ford Not at Fault in SUV Crash

MOUNT CLEMENS, MICHIGAN - On Thursday, December 7th, 2006, a Macomb County jury found that a 2000 Ford Explorer was not defective in a rollover crash that killed one plaintiff and injured another plaintiff.  The jury dismissed claims that Ford Motor Company and Jerome Duncan Ford were responsible for the injuries to Ms. Joan Gorman and the death of Mary Anne Torpey in a 2001 multiple vehicle crash and rollover.  After nearly three months in trial, the jury in Kathleen Dolan, et al. vs. Ford Motor Company et al., deliberated for 75 minutes before rendering a unanimous verdict for the defendants.

On August 17, 2001, Torpey borrowed a 2000 Ford Explorer that belonged to her daughter, Peggy Ahee, for a family vacation.  Torpey was driving the vehicle in the left-hand lane on northbound I-75 near West Branch, Michigan as she attempted to pass a semi-tractor trailer in the right-hand lane.  Torpey activated her turn signal and began to enter the right lane.  As the Explorer entered the right lane, Ms. Gorman, a passenger in the front seat of the Explorer, screamed when she saw something out of the corner of her eye.  As the driver of the semi-tractor trailer would later testify, the Explorer did not fully pass his vehicle before entering the right lane and came within inches of colliding with his semi.  Startled by all of this, Ms. Torpey swerved hard left, losing control of the Explorer, hitting a van, and rolling passenger side leading one and one-half times.  Unrestrained, Ms. Torpey was ejected from the vehicle and later died.  Ms. Gorman received multiple injuries from the accident. 

The plaintiffs' attorney, Ven Johnson, argued that the Explorer rolled over due to a defective upper ball joint in the left front wheel, which loosened and broke.  Plaintiffs believed that the left front wheel separated before the rollover.  Johnson further stated that Ford was aware of two dozen similar incidents where loose or missing pinch bolts caused incomplete separation of front wheels, calling into question the merit of the left wheel assembly design.

Thomas Branigan countered that the other "similar" incidents were related to the assembly process for the pinch bolt rather than the design of the ball joint assembly, thereby illustrating that the two dozen other incidents that plaintiffs focused on throughout the trial were irrelevant to this accident.  The pinch bolt on the Explorer at issue was intact before and after the accident and the upper ball stud fractured rather than simply separating as was observed in the other incidents.  The upper ball stud, like the lower ball stud and tie rod on the subject Explorer, fractured due to the impact forces with the roadway after the Explorer began to rollover.

Branigan illustrated that Torpey caused the crash due to driver error.  He also argued that the sum of the physical evidence showed that the left front wheel separated after the Explorer rolled over.

Plaintiffs' attorney asked for $27.5 million.  The jury unanimously decided in favor of the defendants.

Kathleen Dolan et al. vs. Ford Motor Company et al.
Case No.:  04-3074 NI
Judge Diane Druzinski
Macomb County Circuit Court

Attorneys for Defense:
Thomas Branigan, Jeffrey Gorcyca, Bowman and Brooke - Detroit, MI

Attorneys for Plaintiffs:
Ven Johnson, William McHenry, Lloyd Johnson, Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Johnson, P.C. - Southfield, MI

Experts appearing at trial for Defense:
Dr. Michael Baden, forensic pathologist, New York, NY; Dr. Edward Caulfield, metallurgical expert, Naperville, IL; Richard Keefer, accident reconstruction, Detroit, MI; Dr. Robert Piziali, biomechanic, San Carlos, CA; Peter Rogulsky, design expert, Milford, MI

Experts appearing at trial for Plaintiffs:
Dr. Haranath Policherla, neurologist, Detroit, MI; Dr. Robert Little, metallurgical expert, Dearborn, MI; Dr. Bradley Sewick, neuropsychologist, Detroit, MI; David Shepardson, accident reconstruction, Grand Rapids, MI; Dr. Gerald Shiener, psychiatrist, Detroit, MI; Dr. Werner Spitz, forensic pathologist, Grosse Point, MI; Dr. Kanu Virani, forensic pathologist, Pontiac, MI

Trial Team

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