Product liability suit against Ford settles

Alejandro de los Rios Aug. 12, 2010, 11:25am

A 12-year-old suit involving Ford Motor Co. has settled in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

Ford, along with New Orleans dealership Bill Watson Ford, Don Bohn Ford and Paulstra CRC Motion were named defendants in a suit regarding a fatal accident involving a 1995 Ford Windstar.

Orleans residents Myra Munster, Christen Cook and Mississippi resident John Cook sued Ford, the dealerships and Paulstra CRC claiming that a defective engine mount caused Munster to swerve out of control while driving along an Arizona highway in July 1998.

After Munster lost control, the van swerved into the highway median and flipped over two or three times before landing upright.

Munster's husband, Peter Munster, and her 13-year-old daughter, Jennifer Munster, were killed in the accident. The suit claims the rest of the plaintiffs suffered serious injuries and mental and emotional anguish.

New Orleans attorney Glen Cater filed the original petition for damages, which claimed that Bill Walton and Ford were liable for selling Munster a van that "was unreasonably dangerous in construction." It alleged that Jon Bohn Ford was liable because it didn't identify the vehicle's defect when Munster and her husband brought it in for front-end repairs in August 1997.

Plaintiff counsel brought in engineering expert Fred Liebkemann, submitting his inspection of the van as evidence. Liebkemann wrote that the "accident came as a result of left axle coming loose from transaxle ... because the transmission mount near the left drive axle/transaxle was fractured completely through."

He said this "may have been due to the failure to replace a damaged or broken mount."

In July 2005, Bohn was granted a summary judgment in which Orleans Parish Chief Justice Lloyd Medley Jr. ruled that there was "neither a cause in fact nor a legal cause of the accident" against Bohn.

The basis of the ruling lay in that Liebkemann could not identify with certainty whether the accident was due to a faulty mount installed by the factory before sale or by Bohn in the course of repairs.

Metairie attorneys Steve Elliot and Robert McMahon represented Bohn after replacing the original defense counsel – Scott McQuaig – in October 2000.

Plaintiffs settled with Ford Motor Co. and Bill Watson Ford in March 2008 and dropped their charges.

Covington attorneys Robert Maxwell and Allen Davis Paulstra represented Bill Watson and Ford. They substituted for the original defense counsel of New Orleans attorneys Michal Noonan and James Swinnen in September 2006.

CRC remained as the only defendant after being named six years after the original petition was filed.

New Orleans attorneys Carter Marshall and Kevin Tulley represented CRC. In June 2006, they were granted a motion for exception of prescription based on the fact that they were named as defendants two years after deadlines set by Judge Medley to submit amended petitions expired.

Plaintiffs appealed Judge Medley's ruling and the judgment was heard before the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judges Michael Keriby, Max Tobias Jr., and Roland Belsome overturned Judge Medley's decision, ruling in favor of the plaintiffs who stated they could not have named Paulstra CRC as a defendant until full discovery had been completed after Judge Medley's deadlines.

Paulstra CRC filed an exception of prescription in May 2010 and a motion hearing was pending when they settled.

Orleans Parish Case 1999-11133

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