Saturday, December 4, 2010

Illinois Supreme Court to decide on manufacturer's post sale duty to warn

About three weeks ago, the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a very interesting case that asks the court to decide whether to impose a post sale duty to warn as recognized in the Restaement of Torts (Third). The case is called Jablonski v. Ford Motor Company. The plaintiff in the case sued Ford after the 1993 Lincoln Town Car she and her husband were driving in was rear-ended. The collision forced a pipe wrench in their trunk through the walls of the fuel tank, causing a fire that killed her husband and left her severely burned. The 1993 Lincoln Town Car was one of four Ford vehicles, including one specifically designed for police, that was built with a fuel tank behind the rear axle. (I could be wrong about this, but I think that was the same design that caused problems for the infamous Pinto model.) In 2002, Ford contacted the owners of one of its models (one manufactured mostly, if not exclusively, for police departments) to notify them of the risk of fire, but Ford did not notify the owners of the other models. Those notifications informed owners of the availability of an upgrade kit, which consisted of shields designed to protect the fuel tank, as well as a drop-in trunk liner and a series of recommendations on how to pack things in the car's truck to avoid item puncturing the gas tank -- precisely what happened in the plaintiff's case. In her complaint against Ford, the plaintiff argued that the car manufacturer should be liable for failing to warn her when it knew of the risk and had warned owners of a different model car. The oral argument is worth watching. You can listen to the audio by going here or watch the video by going here.

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