For the lack of $18 to $25 worth of airbag sensors, Ford Motor Co. will pay a multimillion-dollar settlement.
The company agreed Dec. 8 to pay a confidential amount above the $5.1 million in compensatory damages awarded by a jury in U.S. District Court in Utica, N.Y.
The case alleged defective design of the driver's airbag on a 1993 Mercury Grand Marquis.
Ford disputed the claim, arguing that its switch from a five-sensor system to a three-sensor system was the result of new technology and was not a cost-based decision.
The suit stemmed from the airbag's allegedly belated deployment when Robert Hoffman's car hit a utility pole in 1996. The airbag struck him in the face, blinding one eye and partially blinding the other.
'We presented evidence that Ford, to save $18 to $25 per car, removed two sensors from the front corners of Hoffman's vehicle,' said Hoffman's lawyer, Arthur Siegel of Albany.
'Had Ford not removed one of them, the airbag would have deployed on time, preventing him from being injured.'
At trial, Hoffman offered evidence that Ford should have known from testing that there was a 'likelihood of late deployment in certain kinds of collision,' Siegel said.
The jury voted to impose punitive damages, but settlement talks were concluded before that phase of the trial was to begin in front of U.S. District Judge David Hurd.
Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said the settlement came from negotiations ordered by Hurd.
'The three-sensor design was the latest evolution in airbag technology available that was engineered to be more robust and more reliable than prior systems,' she said.
'The new three-sensor design passed a battery of engineering tests, including roughly 100 crash tests, to ensure that the system would provide reliable occupant protection.
'Prior to this, no jury or agency had found a Grand Marquis airbag to be defective in any way.'
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