The Perron Law Firm represented the parents of a young man killed while driving a Ford Explorer. Mr. K was driving on a two-lane state highway when he approached a sharp horizontal curve to the left. A gravel road joined the state highway at that curve. One or two tires on the right side of the truck left the travel portion of the road and when the teenager turned left to get back on the pavement he apparently "over corrected" causing the truck to swerve. He may have "over corrected" again, pulling hard to his right. Eventually he lost control, the truck rolled over several times, and Mr. K was ejected and killed. He was not wearing a seatbelt. The State Trooper who responded to the scene concluded that the accident was caused by the over correction after the boy left the pavement.
The Perron Law Firm purchased the vehicle from a salvage yard and had it towed to a storage facility in St. Louis. In the meantime, lawyers from The Perron Law Firm visited the scene with an accident reconstruction expert. There were no shoulders of any type along that state road, which is typical for old "farm-to-market" roads in Missouri. The gravel road formed sort of a shoulder at the place where the vehicle partially left the pavement. The gravel was not, however, flush with the top of the pavement. There was an abrupt edge drop off of several inches in places including the spot where the boy had tried to get back on the road, according to the police report. An edge drop off in excess of two or three inches exceeded all established standards, including those adopted by the Missouri Department of Transportation. Maintenance of the gravel road as it abutted the state road was the MoDotís responsibility. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed.
The products liability claim against Ford arising out of the design of the Explorer settled relatively early. The lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Transportation took years to resolve. Plaintiffs had two expert witnesses and MoDot named four, not counting the state trooper who responded to the scene of the accident.
The most contested issue was whether or not there was a dangerous drop off at the place where the boy reentered the paved portion of the road from the gravel "shoulder." Our expert made measurements using procedures described in numerous publications, including those authored by MoDotís expert. MoDotís expert, however, maintained that a more sophisticated method he used in this case demonstrated that there was more of a stair step increase from the gravel apron to the pavement which should not be considered an abrupt edge drop off. The experts also disagreed as to whether or not the presence of "scrubbing" witness marks on the inside of the tires which had left the pavement was necessary before it could be concluded that the edge drop off played a role in the loss of control upon regaining the pavement. All experts agreed that the loss of control, rolling, ejectment and death all resulted from the manner in which the truck returned to the road.
After a number of depositions and discovery disputes, the case against MoDOT settled a few weeks before the scheduled arbitration was to begin.
Damages paid by MoDot were limited by statute. The amount paid to settle the products liability case is confidential at the insistence of Defendant Ford.