DETROIT -- The Illinois Supreme Court has spared Ford Motor Co. from a $43 million lower court judgment in a product liability lawsuit stemming from a fatal 2003 crash.
The Sept. 22 ruling by Illinois' highest court was made public on Wednesday.
Dora Jablonski was disfigured and her husband, John Jablonski, was killed when their 1993 Lincoln Town Car burst into flames in July 2003 when it was struck from behind while stopped in a highway construction zone near Granite City, Ill., according to court records.
A large pipe wrench in the Jablonski car's trunk was propelled into the vehicle's gas tank, causing the fire, court records show, the Associated Press reported.
A jury in southwestern Illinois' Madison County sided with the Jablonski family in 2005 and blamed Ford for faulty design, despite Ford's argument that the other driver should be blamed, not the company.
Those jurors, the AP reported, ordered Ford to pay more than $5 million to the estate of then-74-year-old John Jablonski, $23.1 million to his wife and $15 million in punitive damages.
However, the Illinois Supreme Court said the lawsuit on the Jablonski's behalf did not give sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude Ford negligently "breached its duty of reasonable care" in designing the Lincoln Town Car, the AP reported.
Moreover, the state's high court also found that Illinois law does not require a company to warn of defects undetected before the product leaves a manufacturer, the AP said.
The wire service said a message left today with the Joblonskis' attorney, Brad Lakin of Wood River, Ill., had not been immediately returned.