Florida Court Says Automaker May be Liable for Single-Car Accident – Rooker v. Ford Motor Company

Most of the Florida car accident cases we cover in this blog concern a dispute over a crash in which one driver or passenger claims that another driver caused the crash and any related injuries. But sometimes – particularly in single-car accidents – it’s a car manufacturer who may be to blame. In Rooker v. Ford Motor Company, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal examines whether a car maker may be liable for an accident or injuries caused by a defect in the car under the doctrine of strict liability.

Kristi Rooker was injured in a single car accident when the Ford Explorer she was driving rolled over and she was ejected from the vehicle. Alleging that defects in the car, which belonged to her boyfriend, either caused the accident or caused her to suffer additional injuries as a result of the accident, Rooker sued the Ford Motor Company in state court. Specifically, according to Rooker, defects in the design of the car’s suspension system caused the Explorer to roll over after sudden lane changes. Meanwhile, alleged defects in the roof and support structures as well as in the seat belts failed to provide sufficient protection in the event of an accident.

Prior to trial, the trial court granted Ford’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the evidence showed that the accident was caused by Rooker’s own negligence. Medical records from Rooker’s hospital visit following the accident showed that she was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Rooker later sought rehearing on the matter, and presented an affidavit from an expert indicating that defects in the car’s roof system contributed to her injuries. The trial court declined to grant a rehearing.

On appeal, the Second District reversed the decision, ruling that material fact issues remained to be determined in order to decide on Rooker’s claim.

“Even if Rooker’s negligence caused the accident that resulted in the vehicle’s rolling over, the allegations that the defective design of the roof structure and the occupant restraint devices caused the injuries she suffered in the accident remain to be decided,” the Court explained. Under the doctrine of strict liability, Florida law incurs liability for injuries caused by a product – in this case the car – regardless of whether the particular defendant was actually negligent or otherwise at fault. In other words, while defects in the Explorer may not have caused Rooker’s accident, Ford may still be liable for injuries caused as a result of the defects.

Here, the Court said fact issues remained both as to whether defects caused the accident and whether defects caused the car to provide inadequate protection to Rooker when the accident happened. As a result, the Court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine represent drivers and passengers throughout the region, including in Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale and Hialeah. We have the experience and diligence necessary to help you after an auto accident. We also offer a free consultation to those seeking legal advice after an accident. Call 800-747-3733 or submit an on-line “Contact Us” form today.

Related blog posts:

Comparative Negligence Evidence in Florida Car Accident Cases – Lenhart v. Basora

The Importance of Jury Selection in Florida Car Accident Cases – Borroto v. Garcia

Insurance Issues in Florida Car Accident Lawsuits – Goheagan v. American Vehicle Insurance Company