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Old 06-15-2005, 05:22   #1 (permalink)
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US:Jury finds Ford's Crown Vic design not liable in trooper death

Jury finds Ford's Crown Vic design not liable in trooper death

Jurors blame driver of truck that struck cop car

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City jury on Tuesday found that Ford Motor Co. was not liable in the May 2003 death of a Missouri state trooper when his Crown Victoria was struck from behind and caught fire.

Jurors said the guilty party was the driver of the pickup truck that slammed into Trooper Michael Newton's patrol car and the driver's employer, Trade Winds Distributing Inc. of Altamont. They awarded $8.5 million in damages to Newton's family and to a passenger in the patrol car who was severely burned.

Attorneys for Newton's family and passenger Michael Nolte had argued that the design of the Crown Victoria, with the fuel tank located between the rear bumper and the rear axle, partly contributed to the resulting explosion.

Police agencies across the country have made similar claims following explosions involving the popular model of patrol car but have yet to find success in the courtroom. A Belleview, Ill., jury last fall ruled against the plaintiffs in the first class-action lawsuit against Ford.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker has repeatedly maintained that the Crown Victoria is safe.

"This verdict affirms the work of the police departments and Ford to develop this vehicle," said Ford lawyer Doug Lampe.

Messages were left Tuesday for lawyers for Nolte and Newton's families and for Trade Winds Distributing seeking comment.

Investigators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last year that the gas tank of Newton's patrol car did not appear compromised in the collision. They said the fire came after fuel leaked from the severed fuel supply tube, which could come loose in rear-end crashes involving any vehicle.

Newton, 25, pulled over Overland Park, Kan., driver Nolte on May 22, 2003, on Interstate 70 near Odessa. Newton was parked along the eastbound shoulder when his car was struck by a Ford F-350 truck driven by Paul Daniel of New Hampton.

Daniel, who pleaded guilty in October 2003 to four traffic misdemeanors and was sentenced to six months in jail, said he could not see Newton's car because of the early morning sun.
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