Associated Press Published

W.Va. Appeals Court Reverses $7M Jury Award In Ford Lawsuit

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An appeals court in West Virginia on Friday reversed a $7 million award in a product liability lawsuit against the Ford Motor Co. to the family of a woman who died when her Ford Mustang was involved in a fiery crash.

The West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals sent the case back to Kanawha County Circuit Court for a new trial.

A jury had found that Ford was 99% at fault for the 2016 death of Breanna Bumgarner and awarded the money last year to her Raleigh County family.

Court records show that Bumgarner’s 2014 Mustang was hit by a pickup truck that had crossed the center line on U.S. Route 33 near Spencer in Roane County. The Mustang caught fire and Bumgarner was trapped in the vehicle. The lawsuit also named the 16-year-old driver of the other vehicle and her parents as defendants.

The plaintiff’s attorneys had argued that the Mustang’s brake fluid reservoir was not sufficiently protected from the crash and it led to the fire. The jury found that the reservoir’s design was not safe enough in preventing leakage in the accident.

The appeals court sided with Ford’s contention that negligent design claims require proof of a reasonable alternative design for establishing the existence of a defect, and that the jury should have been properly instructed on the requirement.