Legal Case Study Essay

1321 Words 6 Pages
Legal Case Study

The American Automobile industry has historically been tied to the nations economic cycle in which three or four years were good followed by one or two poor years. In 1977 there were four major U.S. automakers including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and American Motors. Imports were starting to make their presence in the market because they offered subcompact cars at reasonable prices. Ford started producing the Ford Pinto on August 10, 1970. Ford accelerated the planning process and achieved the design and development time in 38 months, compared to the industry average of 43 months. Ford wanted the car to weigh less than 2,000 pounds and cost less than $2,000. The only
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Ford had excessive leakage at the 20 mph and 30 mph fixed barrier tests that would have required substantial changes to the design of car. Ford tried the most efficient way to fix the problem by testing a rubber bladder around the gas tank. An engineer stated that there was substantial improvement but the bladders made gas filling difficult in cold weather due to the bladder stiffing up and they were also ineffective in hot weather. NHTSA investigated Ford because of consumer complaints after an article in a Mother Jones magazine. They concluded that there were more gas tank ruptures but the NHTSA had nothing to compare it to since they were a relatively new agency. There were many complaints and a lot of controversy about the Ford Pinto. It was a center of safety for many years. On May 9, 1978 NHTSA concluded that there was safety defect to the fuel system of the Ford Pinto for the 1971-1976 model years. There were 38 cases of rear-end collisions that resulted in fuel tank damage, leakage and/or ensuing fires. From the 38 cases there were 27 fatalities among occupants and 24 instances that occupants suffered nonfatal burns. Ford did finally recall of 1.5 million of its subcompacts on June 9, 1978.

Critical Legal Issues:

Was Ford negligent when designing the Ford Pinto knowing that the fuel system was not as safely designed as they were able to with the

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