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CASE TYPE: Products liability CASE: Ayala v. Ford Motor Co., No. 2:04-CV-395 (E.D. Texas) DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Kevin C. Schiferl and Robert B. Thornburg, partners, Locke Reynolds, Indianapolis; and Ronald D. Wamsted, Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, Austin, Texas PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Mikal C. Watts, The Watts Law Firm, Corpus Christi, Texas; J. Hunter Craft, the Watts Law Firm, Houston The grieving and outraged parents of a toddler strangled by the power window of a Ford pickup truck demanded $31 million for her death. Surely a jury weighted heavily with mothers would be receptive to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Mikal C. Watts, and hit the auto manufacturer fast and hard. The jury did act quickly, deliberating for only an hour on Aug. 5, 2005. But the verdict in the first power-window death case to go to trial was a victory for the defendant. Ford Motor Co. attorney Kevin C. Schiferl prevailed by employing a defense that easily could have backfired: While conceding that Ford could have used a safer window switch in its pickups, he also suggested that better supervision of the 2-year-old victim would have prevented her death. The victory was all the more impressive considering the skill and track record of Schiferl’s opponent. This was the only trial of four against Ford that The Watts Law Firm lost last year. (Two others settled during trial.) This case was tried in Marshall, Texas-Watts’ home turf and a venue widely considered plaintiff-friendly. Schiferl said Watts appeared to have the upper hand headed into trial. The plaintiffs’ team had won every pretrial motion it filed. The defense had lost every single one of its own pretrial motions. And then it lost another motion during trial, when a second bereaved mother was permitted to testify about how her child died a similar death in a Ford

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