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Branham v. Ford Motor Co.

South Carolina Supreme Court
701 S.E.2d 5 (2010)


Facts

Cheryl Hale was driving her 1987 Ford Bronco II with several children and Jesse Branham (plaintiff) riding as passengers. None of the occupants was wearing a seat belt. After taking her eyes off the road momentarily, Hale noticed she was veering towards the shoulder of the road. She responded by overcorrecting and pulled the vehicle sharply to the left. The overcorrection led to the vehicle “shaking” and it then overturned. Branham was thrown from the vehicle and was injured. Branham brought a products liability design defect suit against Ford Motor Company (Ford) (defendant) and asserted claims of negligence against Hale (defendant). Branham subsequently did not aggressively pursue the claim against Hale. At trial, evidence showed that Ford’s interest in cost saving, marketing, and production interest prevailed over safety concerns. The jury found both Ford and Hale negligent and awarded Branham $16 million in actual damages and $15 million in punitive damages. Ford appealed directly to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Kittredge, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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