Update: Rose Marie Munoz v. Ford

by Ted Frank on June 9, 2008

We were curious what happened to the case of Rose Marie Munoz v. Ford, the $29 million verdict against an auto manufacturer when a 10-year-old recalled Firestone tire failed and a passenger who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt was ejected. Our original post had provoked a response from the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Roger S. Braugh, Jr.

As we stated in January 2006,

Rose Marie Munoz wasn’t wearing her seatbelt in 2002 when the spare tire on the 1992 Mazda Navajo (a rebadged Ford Explorer) failed and driver Derek Saenz rolled over the SUV; the other three occupants of the vehicle were uninjured. Munoz was ejected and temporarily paralyzed, has lost use of her right hand, and now walks with a limp. A Nueces County, Texas jury held Ford 75% (and Mazda another 10%) responsible for $29 million in damages, on the grounds that Ford should have done more to warn consumers about the dangers of ten-year-old tires—even though the tires in question were the notorious Bridgestone/Firestone tires that had actually been recalled in 2000, but had been left on the SUV. Jurors said they were influenced by the fact that Ford has since added a warning in their owners’ manual about replacing tires more than six years old. Firestone settled the case, allowing the plaintiffs to focus blame on Ford at trial. Ford blames the accident on driver error, and will appeal. (Sean M. Wood, “Ford hit with big judgment in Nueces”, San Antonio Express-News, Jan. 28; Karen Lundegaard, “Texas Jury Slaps Ford With $29 Million Verdict”, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 27; AP, Jan. 27; plaintiffs’ lawyer press release).

Alas, I could find no record of an appeal, which suggests that Ford was pressured into settling. (I’m happy to be corrected by our Texas readers if I’ve searched the databases wrong.) But I learned something else about the case that we hadn’t previously commented on. I found the accident report (page 30-31 of this PDF). The accident occurred in Atascosa County, just south of Bexar County, the home of San Antonio, where the driver and the plaintiff were from. But the lawsuit was brought in Neuces County in Corpus Christi–117 miles away from the accident, and further from San Antonio. Add forum shopping to the many sins of this litigation.

{ 3 comments }

1 Bill Poser 06.09.08 at 2:43 pm

One question that doesn’t seem to be answered in the earlier posts and comments: as I understand it, the tire that failed was the spare, which the tire store failed to replace. Is that right? Why were they driving on the spare? Did they have the bad luck to have the spare fail in the brief period between a flat tire and its repair, or were they driving around on the spare for a long time, which they shouldn’t have been?

2 Barry Nordin 06.09.08 at 3:35 pm

I’m glad to hear Mr. Braugh’s “true facts.” I’m tired of hearing “fictional facts.”

And I didn’t know “farce” was spelled with an “s”, not a “c”.

3 William Nuesslein 06.11.08 at 8:23 am

This is so sad. Tire failure will not cause a rollover. It is straight forward physics. A car is not a horse!

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