A federal jury in California has cleared Ford Motor Co. in a suit alleging that a passenger-side airbag in a 1995 Ford Mustang improperly deployed in a minor collision.
The jury in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles rejected Brian Cummings' suit arising from a crash that shattered his jaw in two places. The January 1998 accident happened when the other vehicle made an improper turn and struck the front of the Mustang.
Both airbags deployed. Cummings' girlfriend, who was driving, was not injured.
Cummings has asked U.S. District Judge George King to set aside the verdict and order a new trial, said his lawyer, Robert Mandell of Northridge.
At trial, Cummings claimed he was belted properly and wouldn't have been injured if the bag hadn't deployed as it did, striking him in the face and causing a broken jaw and temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The suit also alleged failure to warn.
'His claim was that this bag has an anomaly and can come back very fast and very deep and slap the person's face,' Mandell said. 'The anomaly is the bag will interact with the person's face in the deployment phase, prior to full deployment, and that can cause serious injury. In his case, it did.'
But Ford offered testimony that the Mustang's passenger-side bag deployed properly as designed at a closing speed of about 15 mph, 'well within the accepted range for deployment,' said defense lawyer Matthew Rogers of Los Angeles.
Rogers also said it was the driver's hand, not the airbag, that struck and broke Cummings' jaw, and no warning would have prevented the injuries. 'The passenger bag grabbed the driver's hand and struck him,' he said.
But Mandell said airbag burns on the driver's hands showed she had both hands on the wheel when the bags deployed.
During settlement talks, Cummings demanded $250,000 and Ford offered $25,000, the lawyers said. Just before the trial, Cummings lowered his demand to $150,000 and Ford raised its offer to $50,000.