In Funkhouser v. Ford Motor, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a products liability wrongful death suit against Ford arising from an electrical fire in the Ford Windstar.
The facts in this one are just plain awful. Three-year-old twins were playing in their parents’ 2001 Ford Windstar. The engine was off and the keys were not in the ignition. As a parent, you really do feel pretty safe in that situation with three-year-old’s because the cars are made to be kid-proof on that level. A fire erupted in the passenger compartment of the van. One child suffered significant burns and died later that day.
In August 2007, the administrator of Emily’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ford alleging a design defect in the electrical connector behind the dashboard caused the fire. However, after Ford was granted a motion to exclude evidence of other Windstar fires, the lawsuit was dismissed. But the family refiled the wrongful death lawsuit against Ford, alleging negligence and breach of implied warranty. The lawsuit claimed that Ford failed to adequately warn consumers about the fire hazards in Windstar vans when they are parked with the engine off and no key in the ignition.
Plaintiff filed a wrongful death product liability lawsuit against Ford, contending that Ford did not properly warn consumers about the fire hazard in Windstar vans when they are parked with the engine off and no key in the ignition.
Evidence that Ford Knew
Plaintiff wanted to introduce evidence of seven other similar fires in the wrongful death lawsuit. The point being that since Ford knew of the problem, whatever the cause might be, it should tell consumers. Because other Ford Windstar fires that happened before this tragedy show Ford was aware or should have been aware of the danger of electrical fires in the dashboard of the Windstar vans when the engine was off and the keys were not in the ignition. Ford countered that the plaintiff did not prove that the causes of these other fires were substantially similar to the cause of the subject fire.