Hughes v. Ford Motor Co., 204 F. Supp. 2d 958 (N.D. Miss. 2002)

Lisa Hughes was driving a 1991 Ford Explorer when the ventilation system caught fire. Hughes suffered significant burns from the fire. The fire was likely caused by a design that allowed leaves to accumulate in the blower box of the vehicle’s ventilation system, where they could catch fire. Lisa and Larry Hughes filed a products liability lawsuit against Ford based on a defective design.

After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Lisa Hughes in the amount of $4 million in compensatory damages. Ford filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, a new trial or reduction of the jury award.

At the trial, the Hughes did not call their design experts, instead they called a Ford Design engineer, Chuck Adams. Drawing all inferences in favor of the Hughes, the court found that the Hughes met their burden of proof as to Ford’s knowledge and on the issue of whether the vehicle was unreasonably dangerous. The District Court denied Ford’s motion for a new trial or for judgment as a matter of law. However, on review, they found the jury award of $4 million to be excessive, which was reduced to $2.5 million.

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