Practice Area: Defective and Dangerous Products
Outcome: $4,500,000 jury verdict for my client.
Description: On March 14, 2006, seventeen-year-old Erica Hoffman was a front seat passenger in a 1999 Mercury Cougar driven by her friend and classmate, Shannon Cvancara. They were on their way to school in Weld County, Colorado, and both were wearing their seatbelts. Shannon lost control of the vehicle on a gravel road, causing the vehicle to roll multiple times along a concrete culvert at initial speeds of 50 miles per hour. During the rollover, Erica’s seatbelt buckle came unlatched, and she was thrown from the vehicle. She sustained a catastrophic neck injury which resulted in permanent quadriplegia. Shannon, whose seatbelt did not fail, remained inside the vehicle for the duration of the rollover and sustained only minor injuries. Erica and her parents, Sandra and Gary Hoffman, sued Ford Motor Company,1 the manufacturer of the 1999 Mercury Cougar, based on the defectively designed seatbelt that failed to withstand the foreseeable forces of the rollover and inertially unlatched, resulting in Erica’s injuries. A jury trial was held in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado from April 6-20, 2009. On April 28, 2009, the jury found in favor of Plaintiffs and awarded them a total of $18,030,000 in damages. The jury assigned liability as follows: 40% to Shannon Cvancara, 10% to Erica Hoffman, 25% to TRW, and 25% to Ford, resulting in a net award of $4,500,000 to Erica and $7,500 to Erica’s parents against Ford.