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Man burned in 2003 crash loses suit against Ford

A severe accident and the ensuing trials may have drivers in Chicago paying more attention to their surroundings when on the road. The motor vehicle accident occurred on May 22, 2003 when two men -- a state trooper and a civilian receiving a warning -- were sitting in a Ford Crown Victoria patrol car.

According to reports, the trooper had pulled over the 57-year-old man and was giving him a warning about using the passing lane for too long. The two were sitting in the trooper's squad car when a tractor trailer crashed into the rear of the vehicle. Investigators found that the 13,000-pound truck was traveling at speeds around 65 mph at the time of impact.

When asked how the accident occurred, the truck driver stated that he was reaching for a pair of sunglasses.

Upon impact, the patrol car burst into flames. The state highway patrolman lost his life during the crash, but witnesses at the scene managed to extricate the 57-year-old from the vehicle. He had been in the vehicle while it was on fire and received many burns. He spent 65 days in the hospital burn unit and has received several surgeries and skin grafts, in the hopes of repairing his body.

As the collision happened, the patrol car's fuel filler tube was torn and the fuel was ignited, causing the fire that left the 57-year-old burned. That is why, in 2005, a lawsuit against Ford was heard in trial court.

The jury during that trial sided with Ford, stating that the fire was not the fault of the car manufacturer. Instead, the jury said that the truck driver's employer was responsible and awarded the victim $8.5 million. Only $1 million of that could be covered by the employer's insurance due to a pre-trial agreement.

Disappointed with the outcome, the plaintiff appealed and the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial. That trial ended recently with a similar result. Ford is not being held accountable because, as one of its attorneys stated in closing arguments, no gas-powered vehicle can be considered fireproof when involved in a crash with a 13,000-pound vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Jury sides with Ford in fiery crash involving trooper's car on I-70," Tony Rizzo, March 5, 2012

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