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Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- A lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. by a couple who claim a defective Ford Crown Victoria caused an accident that crippled them is back in court.

Opening statements began Wednesday in the retrial, which was ordered by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2002.

Thomas Murray, attorney for Virginia and Leon Manigault, said Ford was too cheap to fix a design flaw that caused the car to crash.

“They had a choice: They could either make their system fail-safe, or they could gamble with the safety of people,” Murray said in his opening statement in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

The Manigaults claim that their 1987 car unexpectedly accelerated out of control as they prepared to pull out of their driveway.

The car crashed into a neighbor’s house. Virginia Manigault suffered a disabling hip injury and her husband, 77, was left in a permanent semi-comatose state, Murray said.

John Coleman, attorney for Ford, said Wednesday in his opening statement that the Manigault’s case is not “anywhere close to being accurate.”

“It just isn’t physically, mechanically possible for that to happen,” Coleman said.

He said Leon Manigault most likely had a stroke or hit the gas pedal instead of the brake.

The Ohio Supreme Court ordered a new trial following the discovery of a videotape that contradicted the testimony of an expert witness in an earlier trial.

During that trial, a Ford expert showed a braking demonstration on a video while he testified that only 20 pounds of brake pressure was needed to stop such a car. The video did not have sound, according to court records.

After the trial, Murray saw a copy of the same video with sound while watching a TV news program about claims of similar acceleration problems with other Ford cars.

On that video, the same Ford expert says 175 pounds of brake pressure would be needed, according to the high court’s ruling.

Visiting Judge Joseph Cirigliano is presiding over the retrial.
 
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