Ford tries to limit evidence in Orleans Parish 'Explorer' trial

Alejandro de los Rios Sep. 16, 2010, 2:52am


Defense counsel for the Ford Motor Co. has filed several motions seeking to limit the scope of evidence introduced at trial in a product liability suit against the auto manufacturer in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

James McQuilkin is suing the Ford and the Bill Watson Ford dealership on behalf of his family after they were involved in a single-car accident in a 1996 Ford Explorer SUV. The suit alleges that the cause of the accident was defective engineering, which caused a tire blowout, causing the SUV to flip over several times.

New Orleans attorney Robert Charbonnet filed the original petition for damages in August 2000.

Covington attorneys Michael Pulaski and Lance Williams are representing Ford.

Orleans Parish Judge Rosemary Ledet is overseeing this case.

In May, defense counsel for Ford filed eight motions, most of which seek to limit the scope of testimony and evidence that may be presented should the case reach trial. The defense is seeking to exclude testimony and evidence from other accidents involving Ford Explorers and other SUVs, the testimony of Ford engineers and internal Ford memos and to exclude any testimony or evidence related to a Firestone tire recall 10 years ago.

The suit had previously named State Farm Insurance and the Bridgestone/Firestone Tire companies as defendants. State Farm was dismissed via summary judgment in 2001, after it was ruled that the driver of the Explorer, Karen McQuilkin, was not at fault in the accident.

Bridgestone/Firestone was also dismissed via summary judgment in June 2006 when it was found that the tire in question was never recovered and thus could not be examined for defects. Plaintiffs had claimed that the Firestone Radial ATX tires had a manufacturer's defect which caused the accident.

New Orleans attorneys Joell Keller, William Hemlin, Alvin Bordelon and William Ellison represented Bridgstone.

In September 2001, Metairie attorney Harry Widmann joined the plaintiff counsel. He submitted an amended petition which claimed Ford and Bridgestone were liable for punitive damages because the accident took place in Mississippi. Counsel for Bridgestone successfully argued that punitive damages were not applicable because the case was being tried in Louisiana, and the punitive charges were dropped in 2002.

Counsel for Ford argues that Bridgestone's dismissal is also grounds for Ford's dismissal in the suit after the defense deposed James McQuilkin and found that the Explorer in question had been sold and destroyed, thus preventing defense experts from properly examining the vehicle.

A hearing date for Sept. 17 has been set to hear all defense motions.

Orleans Parish Case 2000-12308

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