Richards v. Ford Motor Company et. al.

On September 18, 2010, thirteen passengers were traveling in a 1997 Ford E-350 fifteen passenger van owned and operated by Joy Fellowship Christian Ministries Inc. A member of Joy Fellowship, was driving the vehicle on Interstate 87 when he lost control of the van following the blow out of the left rear tire. When he lost control, the vehicle rolled over causing seven of the occupants to be ejected through the side windows. Six of the passengers were declared dead on the scene, while the eight remaining passengers suffered significant injuries.

The plaintiffs were survivors of the accident or family of those who died. They brought claims for strict products liability, negligence, breach of express and implied warranty, along with claims of negligent repair, servicing and/or inspection of the van and its tires, including failure to warn against Surgical Auto.

The subject van was manufactured by defendant Food Motor Company and the left rear tire was manufactured by Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. Our client, Surgical Auto Repair, Inc., serviced the vehicle three times before the accident, including once a few days before the accident.

At the close of discovery, Kathleen M. Mulholland and Rachel M. Smith moved for summary judgment arguing that the work of Surgical Auto played no role in the accident and that Surgical Auto owed no duty to the plaintiffs. Even if Surgical Auto owed a duty to plaintiffs, Ms. Mulholland and Ms. Smith argued that there was no admissible evidence to establish a breach of that duty.

In opposition, plaintiffs alleged that Surgical Auto was negligent in repairing, servicing, and/or inspecting the van and its tires, and that they failed to warn, recommend, and demand that the tires be replaced. Plaintiffs further alleged that Surgical Auto failed to properly investigate the age, condition, rating and size of the vehicle, and failed to warn that the vehicle was dangerous when loaded with fourteen occupants, and that the size of the tires were not within the recommended range or pressure.

Judge Allison Y. Tuitt agreed with Ms. Mulholland and Ms. Smith’s arguments finding that plaintiffs failed to show how the work of Surgical Auto performed on the van caused it to be more dangerous upon leaving the shop or on the date of the accident. Judge Tuitt agreed that Surgical Auto was hired to repair the front end of the van, not the rear tires. Moreover, the Court agreed that there was overwhelming evidence that Surgical Auto properly warned Joy Fellowship of the dangers of operating the vehicle with the tires in poor condition. Therefore, Surgical Auto did not owe plaintiffs a duty of care and properly notified Joy Fellowship of the poor condition of the tires. Accordingly, the Court dismissed all claims and cross-claims as and against Surgical Auto Repair.