Monday, December 12, 2005

Gibson v. Ford et. al. update

The evidence in the case has now closed; tomorrow will be spent in a charge conference with the judge and the attorneys to figure out what law will be charged to the jury, and closing arguments are Wednesday. The jury will then have the case on Thursday.

Plaintiff has introduced evidence that the fuel tank location, seat back, and doors of the 1985 Mercury Marquis were defective. Plaintiff has also introduced evidence that Draw-Tite, the trailer hitch manufacturer, knew or should have known of the danger created by using their hitch on a vehicle with this fuel tank location, and failed to warn of such a danger. Plaintiff's have further introduced evidence of Burns' negligence in hitting Ms. Gibson's vehicle from the rear.

The Defendants have largely pointed the finger at each other, with each claiming that actions or omissions of other Defendants were the sole proximate cause of the death of Ms. Gibson. Ford has also defended itself by asserting that all of the alleged defective designs represented the state of the art at the time. Draw-Tite, against which there is only a failure to warn claim, has asserted that it did not have knowledge of the alleged defective fuel tank-hitch interaction; Draw-Tite also claims that the hitch did not in fact puncture the fuel tank as alleged, but rather that a part of Burns' truck's frame did. Burns claims that even if he was negligent, Ms. Gibson would have received only minor injuries from the impact of the wreck itself but for the product defects, and that those defects are the proximate cause of her death.

In addition to the above claims and defenses, there is the separate question of punitive damages as to Ford if the jury finds liability for compensatory damages as to it. The jury would first have to decide to award them, and then a second phase of the trial would be held to determine the amount.

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