The Ford Motor Company (Ford) appealed a jury verdict in a strict liability design defect case, in which Ford unsuccessfully argued an alternative design defect test should have been included in the jury instructions. The plaintiff Teresa Gacia Trejo was driving a 2000 Ford Excursion on a highway with her husband Rafael Trejo sitting in the passenger seat. When Ms. Trejo attempted to change lanes, the trailer she was pulling fishtailed causing her to lose control of the vehicle. The Excursion rolled between 1.5 and 2.5 times before resting upside down. Ms. Trejo stated “the roof was so crushed that [she] was unable to see Rafael.” Ms. Trejo was able to climb out of the vehicle, but her husband died at the scene.
Products Liability Litigation
On August 1, 2017, Division III of the Court of Appeals granted a Motion for Publication its June 6, 2017 opinion in Ramm v. Farmers Insurance Company of Washington. In Ramm, Kelly Ramm was driving his car with his son on Trent Avenue in Spokane when he started to feel nauseous. Mr. Ramm pulled his vehicle onto a side street and then over to the side of the road. He placed the vehicle in park but left the keys in the ignition. He opened the driver’s door, unbuckled his seatbelt, and leaned out to vomit. As he leaned out, he passed out, and struck his head on the pavement, suffering significant injuries. His head was bleeding profusely, but his legs and feet remained in the vehicle by the pedals. Mr. Ramm’s son provided first aid and drove his father to the emergency room. The medical bills arising from the incident totaled a sum greater than Mr. Ramm’s $10,000 PIP benefits.
Product liability cases can involve complex mechanisms of injury, and multiple design and manufacturing defendants. Recently, the Court of Appeal addressed a matter where defendants claimed a products liability case should have been tried under a risk/benefit test instead of a consumer expectations test.
On December 16, 2013, the California Superior Court ordered three current or former paint companies to pay $1.1 billion toward an abatement fund to be used to replace or contain lead paint in millions of California homes. The order was issued pursuant to the Court’s ruling on a lawsuit filed by ten city and county governments in California. The lawsuit, People v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et al., alleged the defendant companies’ sale of lead-based paint created a public nuisance and that such companies should pay the plaintiff municipalities for the cost of abating the problem.