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On July 24, 1997, Sara Granda, then 17, was driving a two-door 1989 Ford Escort on a two-lane road in Yolo County, Calif., when wind coming through the open windows began blowing the papers in the car around. Attempting to grab the papers, she lost control of the Escort and ran off the roadway, according to defense attorney M. Gary Toole. The Escort rolled over four times, causing Granda’s head to hit the asphalt highway. She is now a C-2 ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. Granda sued Ford Motor Co. on a products liability theory, alleging that she didn’t lose control of the Escort because of the distraction of the blowing paper, but because the suspension broke as she veered to the edge of the road, Toole said. But this was primarily a crashworthiness case, with Granda charging that the roof structure failed to protect her head from hitting the highway. “They said the windshield should not have broken out,” said Toole. The plaintiff maintained that the breaking of the windshield caused the A-pillar between the driver’s side window and the windshield to collapse and, with it, the roof. Ford countered that the force of the accident caused the suspension to break and the roof to deform. A central issue was when the roof deformation occurred. Granda said it happened early, as a result of weakness; Ford argued that it didn’t occur until late in the accident and that any roof would have collapsed in such a situation. The plaintiff’s injuries made her a formidable adversary. “This was an extremely horrific injury to a very nice young lady,” Toole said, adding that her medical bills were already $4 million. In addition, the trial was in Granda’s hometown. During voir dire, Ford dismissed prospective jurors who said they’d have trouble looking the plaintiff in the eye after rendering a defense verdict. On March 26, the jury found no defects, rejecting the plaintiff’s $50 million request. Plaintiff’s attorneys: Dan Rottier, Habush, Habush & Rottier, Madison, Wis.; Roger Dreyer, Dreyer, Babich, Buccola & Callahan, Sacramento, Calif. Defense attorneys: M. Gary Toole, Cabaniss, Smith, Toole & Wiggins, Orlando, Fla.; Janice O’Grady, Bowman & Brooke, San Jose, Calif.

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