Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Georgia Jury Awards Forty Million Dollars Against Ford as Government Opens Investigation

/PRNewswire/ -- A jury in Dekalb County, Georgia has found Ford Motor Company and a local car dealer responsible for causing the paralysis of Jessica Mundy, a 23 year old accountant for the State of Georgia. The jury awarded $40 million against Ford, including more than $30 million in punitive damages.

The case arose from a defect in the 2004 Ford Explorer transmissions. "'False park' is a condition where the driver believes she shifted into park and the truck is seemingly stable, then after a delay the truck shifts into reverse and drives backwards," said Jeff Harris, one of the lawyers for Jessica Mundy. "There is a space between park and reverse that the gear can get hung up which can allow the vehicle to move back into reverse," explained Harris.

Jessica Mundy was injured after she exited her Explorer at a post office in Mcdonough, Georgia. She placed the gear selector into what she believed was park. While dropping off a Federal Express package, she noticed the Explorer begin to move backwards. When she tried to reenter and stop the truck it ran over her causing her permanent paraplegia.

"This has been a problem that Ford has been aware of for more than thirty years," said Steve Lowry, a lawyer for Jessica Mundy. "Ford's own rules of design required them to take action on this problem and they have not done anything in almost thirty years."

During the trial, the jury heard evidence of 751 complaints regarding Ford vehicles shifting themselves into reverse after being seemingly stable in park. The jury also heard from three other individuals who were injured when their Explorers moved in reverse after each thought he shifted into park.

"It has been very difficult since the accident," stated Jessica Mundy. "I am grateful for the verdict especially after the defense continually tried to tell the jury that I was being untruthful," Mundy said.

During the trial, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency that regulates auto manufacturers, opened an investigation into "false park" and "park to reverse" claims involving 2002-2005 Ford Explorers.

"The investigation comes too late for Jessica but, hopefully, it will stop this from happening in the future," said Lowry.

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