The Ohio Court of Appeals has upheld a jury verdict in favor of Ford Motor Co. in a sudden acceleration suit involving a 1987 Crown Victoria.
The three-judge panel ruled that evidence about other sudden acceleration complaints had not been excluded wrongly at the trial.
Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said the decision is consistent with repeated findings that disprove such sudden acceleration claims. 'NHTSA has never identified a mechanical or electric defect as the cause of reported stop-to-start incidents,' she said.
The plaintiffs' lawyer, Molly O'Neill of Sandusky, said her clients will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to review the case.
The case stemmed from an April 1993 incident in which Leon Manigault claimed that his car suddenly accelerated when he turned on the ignition in his driveway. He and his wife were injured severely.
They sued Ford in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, initially claiming that a defective idle air bypass caused the accident. But at trial, the Manigaults focused on an alleged defect in the cruise control system.
Ford offered expert testimony disputing that the cruise control system was designed defectively. The trial judge granted Ford's motion to exclude as evidence the depositions of two Ford employees and a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration letter asking Ford for information about sudden acceleration complaints.
The jury found that Ford was not liable on manufacturing or design defects, negligence or failure-to-warn claims.
The appeals court in Cleveland turned down the Manigaults' bid for a new trial.
'On the evidence presented, the jury could reasonably conclude that Manigault mistakenly stepped on the accelerator pedal,' Judge Anne Kilbane said in the decision.
'A defect is not proven simply because complaints are made, and the Manigaults had a duty to show the link between such cruise control malfunction and sudden acceleration' but failed to do so, the court continued.
It also rejected the assertion that Ford deliberately had misled the jury into believing that there had been no other complaints and that the company hadn't known that its cruise control system was causing dangerous sudden accelerations.