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Viggiano v. Ford

South Carolina
Feb 03, 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.

Unanimous Jury Says Ford and TRW not responsible in South Carolina rollover

CHARLESTON, SC - On February 3, 2005, a unanimous South Carolina jury ruled in favor of Ford Motor Company and TRW, VSSI, finding a 2000 Lincoln Navigator was not defective nor responsible for the death of Barbara Viggiano.    Her husband, plaintiff Gary Viggiano, claimed during the two-week trial, the Navigator’s seat belt failed due to retractor “spool out”, resulting in her ejection through the driver’s door glass opening.

The claim arose from a February 16, 2001 rollover accident on I-95 near Charleston, when the couple with their grandson were driving to Disney World from Long Island, NY while pulling a 29-foot camper trailer.  For unknown reasons, Viggiano lost control of the vehicle and rolled three times in the center median while still dragging the 7,000 pound trailer.  Although Mrs. Viggiano was belted at the time of the accident, she was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.  Also belted, Mr. Viggiano and their grandson suffered only minor injuries.   Lawyers representing the estate of Mrs. Viggiano claimed that her seat belt was defective because approximately 30 inches of webbing “spooled” off the seat belt retractor during the roll over sequence and caused her to be essentially unrestrained.

At trial, defense attorneys for Ford and TRW demonstrated to the jury, that “spool out” is virtually impossible and that Mrs. Viggiano simply wore her seat belt incorrectly.  It is believed Viggiano, who weighed nearly 300 pounds on the date of the accident, had her shoulder belt under her left arm.  A witness at the scene testified hearing Viggiano’s grandson say she had her belt on wrong.

The jury deliberated for 90 minutes before returning a verdict in favor of Ford and TRW and awarding plaintiff nothing.

Gary Viggiano, personal representative of the Estate of Barbara Viggiano v. Ford Motor Company and TRW

Judge: Patrick M. Duffy
Case: 2:03-0459

Attorneys for Ford Motor Company – Tom Branigan, Lawrence C. Mann, of Bowman and Brooke’s Detroit office and Ken Carter and Nick Gladd of Columbia, SC.

Attorneys for the plaintiff – J. Kendall Few of Greenville, SC and Mark Joye of North Charleston, SC.

Experts for the defense – Michael Holcomb (accident reconstruction), Richard Stalnaker, Ph.D. (biomechanics), Pamela Oviatt (seat belts), Jeff Wirth (seat belt retractors) and Jeff Pearson (seat belts)

Experts for the plaintiff -- Ken Richardson (accident reconstruction), Anthony Sances, Jr., Ph.D. (biomechanics), David Renfroe, Ph.D., (seat belt retractors) and Steven Meyers (seat belts).

Trial Team

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