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A jury cleared Ford Motor Co. of responsibility for a 1997 rollover accident that left a woman paralyzed. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit had alleged that design defects in the 1994 Ford Explorer caused the vehicle to suddenly veer out of control as the couple and their children drove on Interstate 10 through Barstow, Calif. The accident paralyzed Catherine Gozukara and crushed her husband’s leg. Gozukara was also pregnant at the time and lost her child because of her injuries, according to the lawsuit. After a three-month trial, the Barstow Superior Court jury agreed there was a “defect in the design” of the Explorer, but found that the defect was not the cause of the Gozukaras’ injuries. Instead, the jury found that an Orange County, Calif. Ford dealership was mostly liable for failing to make proper repairs after the couple complained that the sport utility vehicle had unusual vibrations, shaking and braking problems. The jury also found that Catherine Gozukara was slightly responsible for her injuries because she was not wearing a seat belt. The jury will convene next week to decide how much the dealership should pay in damages. This trial did not involve claims that the vehicle’s tires caused the accident. Previous cases involving Explorer rollover accidents blamed Firestones that have since been recalled. “The jury did find the vehicle was defective in design because of its propensity to roll over,” said Garo Mardirossian, an attorney representing the Gozukaras. But “they found the defect in the vehicle did not cause injury to the plaintiffs in this accident.” Ford called the accident unfortunate and expressed sympathy for the family. But the automaker also said: “The evidence showed that the Explorer rode up a concrete barrier at highway speeds and almost immediately rolled over — as any other comparable vehicle would have done in the circumstances.” Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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