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Wallace v. Ford Motor Co.

February 19, 1999

LLOYD WALLACE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF THERESA R. WALLACE, DECEASED, AND AS ADMINISTRATOR AD PROSEQUENDUM FOR THERESA R. WALLACE, DECEASED, AND FOR THE NEXT OF KIN OF THERESA R. WALLACE, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND CONTI-CAUSEWAY FORD & LINCOLN MERCURY, DEFENDANT/THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
FRANK TREMMER T/A CHEERS PUB, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



Before Judges King, Newman and Fall.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newman, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued: January 27, l999

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County.

In this product liability case, plaintiff appeals from the order denying a motion for reconsideration, the judgment of no cause of action entered in favor of defendants Ford Motor Company and Conti-Causeway Ford & Lincoln Mercury and the order denying a motion for a new trial and/or judgment N.O.V. and/or mistrial. We affirm.

I.

This lawsuit was based on an accident that took place about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 16, 1989. Theresa R. Wallace (decedent) was alone in her 1989 Ford Mustang, driving on Bordentown Avenue in Sayreville, New Jersey. At a curve in the road, decedent lost control of her car. The Mustang rolled over several times, and she was ejected through the car's sunroof. She landed on a parked vehicle and died instantly of a fractured skull.

Lloyd Wallace (plaintiff), on behalf of his deceased twenty-two-year-old daughter, filed a wrongful death, products liability action against Ford Motor Company (Ford), which manufactured decedent's car, and Conti-Causeway Ford & Lincoln Mercury (Conti-Causeway), which sold this new car to decedent in April 1989. Plaintiff's cause of action was predicated on the fact that, at some point in the accident, the right rear axle had snapped and the right rear wheel had disconnected from decedent's car. Plaintiff alleged a manufacturing defect in the right rear axle which caused a wobble in the right rear wheel, which eventually led to the shear-fracture found in the right rear axle after the accident. Plaintiff asserted that this axle snapped, and this caused decedent to lose control of her car.

Ford and Conti-Causeway (defendants) maintained that decedent lost control of her car at the curve because she was drunk, (.l68 blood alcohol content) and speeding at seventy miles per hour in a fifty mile per hour zone. Rather than causing the roll-over accident, defendants asserted that the right rear axle fractured after the accident began, when the car, which became airborne several times, landed on its right rear wheel during one of the rollovers. The force of this impact with the pavement fractured the right rear axle, disconnecting the right rear wheel.

The first two questions #1 and #2 on the eight-question verdict sheet asked this of the jury:

1. Was the axle defective while under the control of Ford Motor Company and/or Causeway Ford?

YES ________ NO ________

IF YOUR ANSWER IS "NO" TO QUESTION #1, THEN CEASE YOUR DELIBERATIONS AND RETURN ...


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