Snell & Wilmer Defends Ford Focus Roof in Arizona Federal Court Trial

Snell & Wilmer attorneys Vaughn Crawford and Craig Logsdon recently represented Ford Motor Company in a retrial of a Ford Focus rollover lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona in Tucson, Case No. 4:10-CV-00156-RCC. Associate Amanda Sheridan, and paralegals Jorge Moreno and CaSandra Green, assisted with Ford’s defense.

The plaintiff, the seat-belted right front passenger Veronica Ochoa Valenzuela, was paralyzed from the neck down in a crash near Willcox, Arizona in 2008. She claimed the roof of her 2000 Focus was defective and unreasonably dangerous because it crushed more than she believed it should have. She also claimed that a weld on the passenger’s side of the roof had a manufacturing defect.

The Ochoa family lives in the Mexican border town of Agua Prieta. Ms. Ochoa was carpooling to work in Arizona when the driver lost control and flipped the car four-and-a-half times off of the side of a rural road. At trial, plaintiffs asked the jury to award them more than $50 million.

Ford denied that the 2000 Ford Focus roof was defective and defended on the basis that this crash was in the uppermost severity level of all rollover accidents. Ford defended that the roof performed reasonably and as expected under the extreme crash conditions, and that there was no weld manufacturing defect. Ford also presented evidence that Plaintiff’s spinal fracture was not caused by roof deformation, but rather by her head diving into the roof as the car rolled over.

The trial lasted four weeks in front of the presiding federal judge for the District of Arizona, the Hon. Raner Collins, and ended on February 5, 2015.

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