On March 1, 2019, a Boulder County jury found that a Boulder man had incurred $7.5 million in damages for injuries he suffered in a car collision that occurred on September 20, 2009. The man was represented by Mike Thomson of Purvis Gray Thomson, LLP, and Evan Banker of CHALAT, HATTEN & BANKER, P.C. The jury determined that a defectively designed seat in the 1998 Ford Explorer failed in a 2009 rear-end collision, causing the individual to suffer a traumatic brain injury and serious injuries to his neck and back.
On May 9, 2019, the court entered judgment against Ford Motor Company for $6,559,674.05. The Judgment allowed damages for wage loss, medical expenses past and future, physical impairment, and for pain and suffering up to the statutorily capped amount.
On September 20, 2009, at 3:30 PM, the local man was driving his 1998 Ford Explorer eastbound on Arapahoe Avenue. He stopped at Cherryvale Road, because the traffic lights were out. He was rear-ended by a 2006 Toyota Highlander SUV. All the experts agreed that the collision was the type of moderate impact that occurs often on our roads.
But, in this collision, the Explorer’s driver seat immediately and rapidly collapsed rearward only to be stopped by the back seat cushion. The force of the impact threw the man backward, hyperextending his head over the short headrest, headfirst into the back seat cushion. Treating medical doctors testified that as a result of being thrown backward, he sustained a traumatic brain injury and extensive injury to the stabilizing ligaments of his neck.
Testing done by Ford Motor Company after the collision established that the front seat of the 1998 Ford Explorer did indeed collapse rapidly upon an impact from the rear at 25 to 30 mph. Ford insisted that this was the safest design for cars manufactured in 1998.
The local man’s trial team demonstrated that before the 1998 Ford Explorer was designed and manufactured, the automotive industry had developed safer design alternatives – high-retention seats — which would have prevented the catastrophic seat failure and the injuries that occurred in this collision. These included designs by Chrysler, Mercedes and Saab, amongst others, which had stronger seat back designs with higher and more forward head restraints. Experts testified that research had long demonstrated that stronger seats with higher and more forward head restraints better protected drivers and passengers in cars.
The case first came to trial in March 2013. During the first trial, John Purvis and Mike Thomson, both of Purvis Gray Thomson, LLP, represented the Plaintiff. The 2013 jury determined that Ford was liable for damages in the amount of $2,915,971.36. Ford successfully appealed that verdict to the Colorado Court of Appeals, and then to the Colorado Supreme Court. The high court threw out the verdict and the judgment against Ford, and ordered a second trial to be conducted.
Now, nine-and-a-half years after the collision, and six years following the first verdict, a second Boulder jury has again independently reached a verdict establishing that the defective seat caused the local individual to suffer millions of dollars in damages.
CBS Morning news recently did a story on the danger of seat designs such as the one used by Ford in the 1998 Ford Explorer, which can be viewed online.