Appeals court: Ford not liable for 2003 toddler death at Groves sno-cone stand

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Nov. 20, 2007, 3:53am

Ford Expedition

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a favorable judgment in a product liability wrongful death suit against Ford Motor Company on Nov. 15.

Plaintiffs, Brian and Lisa Wright of Port Neches, sued Ford Motor Company in the Eastern District of Texas, alleging Ford was liable for its 2001 XLT Expedition for negligence, marketing and design defects.

The lawsuit, initiated on Jan. 8, 2004, comes after the Wrights' son, 3-year-old Cade Wright, was run over.

On a summer day in 2003, the Wrights took their son to get a sno-cone. When they arrived at the sno-cone stand in Groves, the parking lot was crowded, so in the unlined parking area, the Wrights parked their truck parallel to a Ford Expedition.

While the mother waited in their truck, father and son went to purchase the family's sno-cones. After receiving the first of their treats, the 3-year-old started walking alone across the parking area to his mother in the awaiting truck.

"Brian signaled to Lisa that Cade was on his way to the family truck but Lisa did not see the signal and did not realize Cade was walking forward through the parking lot."

The father turned back to pay for their sno-cone order.

During this time, the Expedition parked next to the Wrights' truck was preparing to leave. According to court records, the Expedition's driver checked the rearview and side view mirrors and then began to back out of the parking lot.

The Expedition backed over Cade, killing him.

The Wrights allege that if the Expedition had a reverse sensing system, their son would still be alive. The plaintiffs state the reverse sensing system should be mandatory standard equipment on all Expeditions due to a "large and unreasonably dangerous blind spot immediately behind the vehicle."

However, Ford argued it was in full compliance with federal safety standards.

Further, the Expedition's owners stated that he knew of the optional reverse sensing system but chose not to purchase it.

Although the court granted Ford's summary judgment with regard to the claims of manufacturing and marketing defects, the case went to trial for strict products liability and negligence.

After the plaintiffs' withdrew their negligence claim, the jury found that the Expedition did not have a design defect that caused the tragic incident.

A month after the final judgment was entered; the Wrights appealed the jury's decision. After reviewing the plaintiffs appeal, the Appeals Court affirmed the previous court's and jury's decisions.

Case No.: 1:04cv00011

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