Network Firm News

Thursday, December 06, 2007


PHOENIX (December 6, 2007) Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. announced today that it recently received a unanimous defense verdict for Ford Motor Company, defeating claims of defective design relating to the roof and seatbelts of the Ford Expedition. The verdict came after a three and one-half week trial in which Plaintiffs asked for millions of dollars in damages.

Mendoza v. Ford Motor Company was tried in Arizona by Snell & Wilmer attorneys Brad Petersen and Craig Logsdon. The lawsuit was filed by the family of Antelmo Mendoza, who drove his Ford Expedition off a highway in Mexico and rolled over at least three times down a hill. Mr. Mendoza died in the crash and his wife was seriously injured.

The Mendozas claimed that the Expedition’s roof was defective because it crushed laterally and allowed Mr. Mendoza to be partially ejected and suffer an instantly fatal head injury. They further claimed that Mrs. Mendoza was properly belted, but that her seatbelt buckle was defective and inertially unlatched due to crash forces, allowing her to be ejected and suffer serious injuries.

As to the roof claim, the defense team proved that the Expedition met and exceeded all government requirements, even those that were not mandatory due to the vehicle's size and type. Beyond the safe design, Mr. Mendoza could be, and likely was, partially ejected before there was significant roof damage. As to the seatbelt claim, the defense team proved that the seatbelt and buckle met and exceeded all governmental requirements. In real-world rollover crashes, and this one in particular, the conditions necessary to trick a buckle into unlatching in a laboratory do not occur. Rather, the defense team demonstrated that Mrs. Mendoza was ejected because she was not wearing her seatbelt.

The jury returned with a unanimous verdict for Ford after just two hours of deliberations.

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