The Ohio Supreme Court today ruled against a former highway patrolman who sued Ford Motor Co. after he was badly burned in 2007 when his cruiser was hit from behind by a drunken driver and burst into a fuel-fed fire.
Ross Linert, an Austintown, Ohio, police officer, alleged Ford should have warned him of risks associated with the placement of the fuel tank in his 2005 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. He was injured when his car was hit from behind by a Cadillac Deville driven by Adrien Foutz, an Ohio woman whose blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit at the time.
Ross alleged that after the hit, his car’s fuel-sender unit separated from the fuel tank, creating a hole in the fuel tank that released fuel and ignited, spreading fire from the rear of the vehicle into the passenger compartment. Ross escaped, but was severely burned on nearly a third of his body and is now disabled.
He said Ford’s gasoline tank was defectively designed and manufactured, and that Ford had an obligation to inform him of those defects.
A jury rejected Linert’s claims, but an appeals court reversed the decision, saying the jury had not been properly instructed to deliberate on whether Ford had a duty to warn about a risk associated with the vehicle. The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision overturns the appeals court ruling, sending it back to the trial court to reinstate the jury’s original decision.
The court, in its decision, said there was insufficient evidence that Ford had gained additional knowledge of the likelihood of a risk of harm to those who used the cruiser after it had sold it to Linert’s police department.
Foutz was charged with aggravated vehicular assault and was sentenced to 22 months in prison. She was released after 18 months.