Saw this article in our local paper today, The Daily Southtown. March
Ford, Mazda owe $27 Million for faulty seat design that contributed to
the death of a South Holland ( IL. ) man.
by Chris Hack
A Cook County jury has awarded $27 million to the family of a South
Holland man killed in a violent rear end collision five years ago.
Jurors deliberated about three hours before handing up the judgement
against Ford Motor Company and Mazda Motor Company, the two
companies that designed and built the 1996 Ford Escort LX that James
Mikolajczyk was driving in February 2000.
The lawsuit blamed the Escorts " Yielding" front seat design as a cause
of death Mikolajaczyk's death. The Escort was stopped at red light when
it was rear ended by a Cadillac that was later determined to be doing 60
According to the plaintiff's attorney Bruce Pfaff, the force of the
impact bent the driver's seat backward about 60 degrees, allowing
Mikolajczyk to slide out from under his seat belt and suffer a fatal
injury when he slammed head first into the rear portion of the passenger
Mikolajczyk's 10 year old daughter, who was sitting in the back seat of
the Escort survived the crash because of the rigidity of that seat,
Ford engineers have long maintained that front seats were designed to
bend backward in crashes in order to minimize neck injuries and
whiplash in the low speed rear end crashes that are much more common
than high speed one that left Mikolajczyk dead.
Attorneys for the automakers noted during the trial the Escorts front
seat met government safety standards. But Pfaff said test done on other
cars, including those made by BMW and Mercedes Benz have shown that more
rigid front seats are equally safe in low speed crashes and provide
superior protection in high speed rear end collisions.
ALthough Ford has strengthened the front seats in a few of its models,
Pfaff said the yielding seat design still is widely used by the
SIx years ago Paff's firm won a $14 million judgement in a similar
lawsuit on behalf of a woman killed in a Ford Explorer in Hammond,
We would love it if Ford Motor Co would wake up ad change their seats,
Pfaff said Wednesday.
The deceased worked as a physicians assistant at the University Of
Chicago Hospital he never regained consciousness after the accident and
died three days later. He was 46.
The driver of the Cadillac, William Timberlake of Morgan Park, was
convicted of drunk driving and reckless homicide and sentenced to six
years in prison. Timberlake, 58 is expected to be paroled in September.