Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company became one of the most famous car accident cases in 1978 when a jury returned a $125 million punitive damages award, the largest amount against an automaker at the time.
A Tragic Car Accident
In 1972, a new Ford Pinto stalled on the freeway and then got rear-ended by another car. According to reports, the other car could not avoid impact at 37 miles per hour.
The driver of the Pinto was fatally burned and the passenger, 13-year-old Richard Grimshaw, suffered disfiguring burns requiring surgeries over the next 10 years.
An Unsafe Car
The fire was caused by a design defect by Ford. The Pinto’s gas tank was set in between the rear axle and the bumper, rather than above the rear axle as done in other cars. Additionally, the Pinto’s crumple zone was too small, lacked standard reinforcement, and was equipped with a flimsy bumper.
When Grimshaw’s Pinto was struck from behind, the gas tank was thrusted forward and punctured against the axel, igniting a fire in the passenger compartment where the victims were trapped.
A Reckless Company
Ford’s crash tests proved the Pinto failed federal regulations of fuel spillages in crashes at certain speeds. A report by Ford engineers recommended no fixes to fuel integrity to save on costs. These additional fixes were estimated at a mere $4 to $8 per car. Yet Ford executives, fully aware of the risks and costs, approved production of the Pinto.
A Historic Verdict
Grimshaw’s verdict was threatened when Ford appealed the legality of the punitive damages. Ford contended large corporations should not be punished because they do not intend to cause injuries to their customers. But Grimshaw’s attorneys argued such corporations are rightfully held accountable when they do not remedy known dangers to their customers. The appellate court agreed, and Grimshaw’s attorneys were able to secure the settlement their client deserved.
A Winning Legal Team
This case highlights that many times an accident victim can be well served by skilled attorneys who expose corporate greed and appeal to a sense of justice. The Sam & Ash, LLP team are dedicated and creative attorneys who fight for the justice their clients deserve. Learn what we can offer you with a free call any day, any hour, at 1 (800) 304-2000.