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Francois v. Ford

May 19, 2006


Illinois Jury says driver solely responsible for deadly rollover crash, not Ford

MORRIS, IL and DETROIT  - On May 19, 2006, after two weeks of trial and almost five hours deliberation, an Illinois jury returned a defense verdict in favor of Ford Motor company in the case of Francois v. Ford.  Plaintiffs had claimed Ford's 1994 Explorer had a defective front suspension causing the vehicle to rollover in a hard turn resulting in Lisa Rooney's death and injuries to Kerri Francois.  Despite asking the jury for more than $10 million, the unanimous jury agreed the Explorer was not defective and Ford was not liable; rather the sole cause of the accident was the driving by Rooney. 

The case arose from a November 2, 1999 evening crash, when three college students, Lisa Rooney, Kerri Francois and Justin Anderson, were heading home to Dwight, IL driving southbound on I-55.  Driver Rooney over steered into the left shoulder attempting to avoid a car merging into the freeway, then overcorrected to the right and again overcorrected back to the left.  These abrupt steering inputs caused the Explorer to veer off-road and into the center median ditch where it rolled over.  Rooney was ejected from the vehicle into the northbound lane and struck by an oncoming car; she was dead at the scene.  Passenger Francois was partially ejected and she sustained spinal cord injuries, while Anderson remained in the vehicle essentially unharmed. 

Plaintiffs claimed Ford's front twin I-beam independent suspension was defective because it caused the front left tire to come off the ground in a hard left turn.  This defect theory is known as front suspension "jacking".

Ford attorneys and experts at trial demonstrated the 1994 Explorer was not prone to jacking and its stability margin was well rated.  Ford also proved that the Explorer was carefully designed, thoroughly tested and one of the safest vehicles on the road.  In fact, when Rooney overcorrected the final time, causing the vehicle to veer off road and rollover, it was determined she turned the steering wheel at least 220 degrees to the left - the equivalent of a U-turn at highway speeds.

The five-male and seven-female person jury agreed there was no defect in the Explorer's front suspension and returned their verdict in favor of Ford Motor Company Friday night, May 19. 

Kerri Francois and estate of Lisa M. Rooney, father and next friend, Alan Rooney v. Ford Motor Company
Judge Lance Peterson
13th Judicial Circuit Court, Grundy County, IL
Case #01L53

Attorneys for Defense:  Tom Branigan and Laura DiNardo of Bowman and Brooke LLP, Detroit and John A. Krivicich and Kim Downing of Donohue, Brown, Mathewson & Smyth, Chicago

Attorneys for Plaintiff:  Martin J. Healy, Jr., John P. Scanlon and David P. Huber of The Healy Law Firm, Chicago and Mark Ragazio of Morris, IL

Experts appearing at trial for Defense:  Lee Carr, vehicle handling and stability, Carr Engineering, Inc., Houston, TX; David Wotton, suspension design, Engineer, Dearborn, MI; Ronald Wooley, Ph.D., accident reconstruction and vehicle dynamics, Wooley Engineering Research Corporation, Provo, UT; Andrew Zelby, M.D., neurology, Chicago

Experts appearing at trial for Plaintiff:  Ian Jones, Ph.D., vehicle design, handling and stability, accident reconstruction and vehicle dynamics, Arlington, VA; Michael Mallek, M.D., neurology, Joliet, IL

Trial Team

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