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A Missouri jury last week found that Ford Motor Co. was not liable in a crash that killed a highway patrol trooper who burned to death when his Crown Victoria police cruiser was struck from behind. At issue was the safety of the Crown Victoria patrol cruiser, which plaintiffs’ attorneys have alleged is defective and prone to explode in rear-end collisions. The case stemmed from a May 2003 accident in which a Ford 350 pickup hauling a trailer slammed into a parked police cruiser as the trooper wrote a ticket, killing the officer. Ford attorneys argued the accident could have caused a fire in any car. The jury agreed, and put the entire blame on Trade Winds Distributing Inc., a small company whose driver rear-ended the Crown Victoria. Newton v. Ford, No. 03CV-215678 (Jackson Co., Mo., Cir. Ct.). “This was very important to Ford because this is the car that’s on the road. This is the car we’re selling,” said Ford attorney Jim Feeney of Detroit’s Dykema Gossett, who had to convince the jury to find Ford not even 1% liable. “In closing, I told the jury . . . if you find that this police interceptor is defective, then you decide that all 300,000 on the road are defective.” The plaintiffs’ attorney, Grant Davis of Davis, Bethune & Jones in Kansas City, Mo., could not be reached for comment. The jury awarded the two plaintiff families a combined $8.5 million. Lawyers had sought $65 million. This is Ford’s second big win in the last year involving the Crown Victoria. Last fall, an Illinois jury ruled in Ford’s favor in a police class action. Centerville v. Ford, No. 03-L-115 (St. Clair Co., Ill., Cir. Ct.).

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