Practice Area: Defective and Dangerous Products
Outcome: $10,668,799.89 Verdict in favor of plaintiff
Description: A Toms River woman who suffered a paralyzed right arm after her Ford Explorer rolled over was awarded a total of $10,668,799.89 in damages by a Superior Court jury in New Brunswick. Rebekah Zakrocki-Parks, 28, was injured in the morning of November 10, 2000, when the throttle on her 1997 Ford Explorer became stuck while she was on her way to work on the Garden State Parkway. When the gas pedal became unstuck, the vehicle surged forward and rolled over, causing her arm to become crushed and partially amputated when it was ejected through the sunroof during the rollover. This case was tried by Barry Eichen, Esq. of Edison, New Jersey. They claimed that there was a design defect in the throttle of the 1997 Ford Explorer that allowed sludging to accumulate on the throttle plate inside the throttle, which would cause the plate to stick closed while the vehicle was being driven. They sued Ford Motor Company and Freehold Ford, alleging that the automaker and its dealer knew from prior customer complaints that drivers were experiencing surging related to the throttles as early as 1996, and that accidents were occurring when drivers applied extra pressure to their gas pedals to overcome the accumulation of sludging, and that the throttle defect posed an even more significant danger in the Ford Explorer, because SUVs, which have a higher center of gravity than most passenger vehicles, are more prone to rollover in emergency situations. After the accident, Rebekah was hospitalized at Jersey Shore Medical Center where reconstructive surgery was performed on her arm. In total, over 20 surgeries were performed on her arm and shoulder in order to reattach her arm. The jury deliberated for two days following a four week trial in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Jamie Happas before announcing its verdict.