Ford Motor Co. and a Los Angeles plaintiff's attorney are publicly disputing the significance of the verdict in a wrongful injury case in Barstow Superior Court.
The case-which involved the catastrophic injuries of an Orange County, Calif., couple when their Ford Explorer rolled over-was the first in which a jury ruled that the basic design of the Explorer is faulty, according to attorney Garo Mardirossian of Mardirossian & Associates.
The couple settled for $14.9 million after a Barstow jury found a Ford dealership liable for the accident that crippled them. Agop and Catherine Gozukara received $9.4 million from Joe Macpherson Ford, which allegedly made faulty repairs on the Gozukaras' 1994 Ford Explorer, and $5.5 million against the highway construction company that built the concrete barrier on which the Gozukawas crashed in 1997.
Mr. Mardirossian, the Gozukaras' attorney, said Ford would have to indemnify Joe Macpherson Ford because the jury found the Explorer's design defective. A Ford spokeswoman, however, said Mr. Mardirossian was completely incorrect. ``Ford was found not liable for this accident,'' she said. ``The dealership is an individually liable entity. We are not linked in this case.''
Ford said this was a gross misinterpretation of the jury verdict and that the Explorer's design was exonerated. The car maker was not found liable in the verdict, the company noted, but rather, the guilty party was the Ford dealership that made faulty repairs.
The Gozukaras were driving to Las Vegas in 1997-shortly after buying the vehicle used from Joe Macpherson Ford, a California dealership-when Agop Gozukara swerved to avoid a truck. The SUV bounced off a wall and skidded 100 feet before rolling over.
Agop Gozukara suffered severe leg injuries that to this day hinder his ability to walk, according to the case. Catherine Gozukara was rendered paraplegic and lost her unborn baby.
Ford, however, noted that the jury ruled the Explorer itself did not cause the Gozukaras' injuries. Instead, it blamed allegedly faulty repairs in the Ford dealership's repair shop.