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15 2017 Feb

Product Defect – Plaintiff’s $3M Victory Against Ford Reversed by 4th Circuit

4th Circuit Reverses $3M Jury Award in Auto Design Defect Case

On Feb. 1, 2017, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reserved a West Virginia trial court on the basis the trial court erred in admitting expert testimony about an alleged design defect specific to a 2001 Ford Ranger truck.  The plaintiff alleged that the trucks's speed control cable would malfunction and prevent the operator of the truck from slowing.   The jury awarded the Plaintiff $3M.  The District Court denied all of Ford's post-trial motions.The 4th Circuit reversed the large award and remanded the case back to the court for entry of judgment in favor of Ford Motor Co.  

For an introduction to product defect actions in South Carolina, visit our Product Defect page

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals based it's decision on the trial court's misapplication of the Fed. Rules of Evidence, Rule 702, and more specifically the Daubert standard.  In a nutshell, the 4th Circuit held that the trial court failed to consider the reliability of plaintiff's expert's design defect testimony, as the Plaintiff failed to present evidence that their expert's opinion was widely accepted in the relevant engineering community.  Plaintiff's expert also performed no tests to support his opinions.  On this basis the Court of Appeals held that the Plaintiff's expert's testimony should not have been admitted, and without any additional expert testimony to establish the truck was defectively designed, and that there were safer alternative designs available that would have been adopted by a reasonably prudent manufacturer, the Plaintiff could not prove his case under the law of West Virginia.  The case is styled Nease v. Ford Motor Co.

Please feel free to contact attorney Milt Stratos II should you have any questions or concerns regarding automotive product defect claims in South Carolina.