NTL member LaBarron Boone helps secure $151M in Ford Explorer rollover trial

Ford ExplorerA Dallas County, Alabama, jury found defendant Ford Motor Company at fault for a rollover crash of a 1998 Ford Explorer that left Travaris “Tre” Smith paralyzed and awarded Smith $151,791,000. The verdict includes $51,791,000 in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages. The jury agreed with Smith in finding that Ford failed to meet its own safety guidelines for the Explorer’s rollover resistance requirement and attempted to cover up the vehicle’s defective design. Beasley Allen lawyers and National Trial Lawyers member LaBarron Boone, Greg Allen and Kendall Dunson along with Bill Gamble of Gamble, Gamble, Calame and Jones, LLC represented Smith.

“We represent a 24-year-old young man who cannot be left alone to care for himself in any way,” said Dunson. “This verdict represents justice for Tre and his family. Thanks to a courageous jury he will now be able to access basic necessities within his home and have access to the care he needs.”

“Tre had the misfortune of riding in a vehicle Ford knew could and did hurt him, but the jury’s verdict will allow him to reclaim some level of hope for a better future, with less dependence on others,” said Boone. “Ford failed Tre and so many other consumers. The jurors in Dallas County held Ford accountable for yet another tragedy in a decades-long saga of the company’s efforts to cover up the shoddy design and its refusal to adequately address the problems.”

In August 2015, Smith was a passenger in the 1998 Ford Explorer traveling in Dallas County. The driver swerved to miss an animal that appeared to be crossing in the vehicle’s path, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The action is called an accident avoidance maneuver and because the Explorer’s design is prone to rolling over, especially during these types of emergencies rather than sliding out like other similar vehicles, the Explorer carrying Smith rolled over two times before landing on the shoulder of the road, right side up. As the vehicle was rolling over, Smith was knocked unconscious and his spine was snapped, leaving him paralyzed and forever changing his life.

Boone believes jurors also intended to send a message to Ford that destroying safety documents in an effort to hide critical and unfavorable evidence will not be tolerated.

“Ford should have spent money redesigning this dangerous SUV model rather than paying huge amounts to defend the cases,” said Allen.  “One expert has been paid over $75 million over the last 16 years to defend Ford in accidents like Mr. Smith’s.”

The 1998 Ford Explorer has been at the center of two historic safety recalls in the U.S. due to its defective design. The model consistently failed the Consumer Union testing because of its propensity to roll over, and company engineers advised Ford it needed to change the design, but Ford refused. Instead, it opted to change the way the product was tested, moving it from a real-world setting to a computer-based simulation called ADAMS. Yet, Ford destroyed the original input and output data obtained through the ADAMS testing, claiming it had no scientific value and was too expensive to maintain.

“We have seen bad conduct before but the egregiousness of Ford’s scheme to mislead the jury was stunning. Ford claimed the ADAMS data that would have proved the safety of this vehicle was destroyed because it had no scientific value and was too expensive to maintain. We provided proof that something as basic as a $100 thumb drive could have easily preserved the data,” Boone said.

At trial, Plaintiffs also explained that in its efforts to resist redesigning the Explorer, Ford altered less expensive components such as air pressure and tire sizes but to no avail. The defective design remains in the stream of commerce decades later and continues to seriously injure and kill consumers.

The case is Travaris D. Smith v. Ford Motor Company, et al, 27-CV-2016-900273.00 in the Circuit Court of Dallas County, Alabama.

 

How Mark Lanier used cheese to help win a $4.7B talcum powder verdict

Mark Lanier

Mark Lanier of Lanier Law Firm

National Trial Lawyers President Mark Lanier isn’t afraid to use a few props to make a point to a jury. Forbes has a profile of Lanier titled “A Bale of Hay and a Block of Cheese: How Mark Lanier Won $4.7 Billion Talcum Powder Verdict” The story begins with how Lanier pulled a knife out of his pocket during the trial and “held it over a large block of yellow cheese.”

“You’ve got Bailiff Jim over there just looking for an excuse to shoot, so I looked at the judge and said `Am I allowed to do this?’” Lanier recalled at a recent meeting for mass tort trial lawyers. “`For now,’ the judge said.”

Lanier was using the knife and cheese to illustrate to the jury how talc is mined. He went on to use a bale of hay, a bathroom scale and “drawings scribbled on overhead projector slides” to communicate with jurors. Read more about Lanier’s techniques and tactics at Forbes. 

Jury convicts Atlanta attorney of murdering wife

An Atlanta jury has found attorney Claud “Tex” McIver guilty of felony murder in the shooting death of his wife Diane in September 2016. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The 75-year-old McIver was acquitted on a charge of malice murder, which would have meant that the shooting death was intentional. Jurors also found McIver guilty on four lesser charges, including aggravated assault. WXIA reports that one of McIver’s friends calls the the jury’s decision “the wrong verdict.” Diane McIver was shot in the back while riding in the front passenger seat of an SUV. Her husband was in the back seat with a loaded revolver in his lap.

Judge in Philando Castile case supports jury decision

The Minnesota judge who presided over the recent acquittal of the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has written a letter supporting the jury’s decision. “The criticism of the jury’s decision of which I am aware has focused primarily on a reaction to the squad-cam video and on consideration of issues you as jurors were never asked to address,” wrote Judge William Leary III on June 23. More on the letter is available here at The Daily Beast.