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Ford Motor Company v. Gonzalez
Texas Court of Appeals
9 S.W.3d 195 (1999)
Robert Gonzalez, Jr. (plaintiff) owned a 1989 Ford Escort, manufactured by the Ford Motor Company (Ford) (defendant), which he bought new from a Ford dealership. The car’s right front tire repeatedly had unusual wear patterns. Each time Gonzalez noticed the wear pattern, he took the car to be repaired, for a total of 10 to 15 times over the two years he owned the car. Frank Ruiz, the Ford dealership’s mechanic, adjusted the vehicle’s alignment several times. Because the problem continued to recur, Gonzalez contacted a Ford factory representative on four occasions, and each time Gonzalez was reassured the problem would be corrected. On April 15, 1991, Gonzalez was driving with his fiancée, Nora Navin (plaintiff), and her son, Jordan, on a highway when they were in a car accident. Gonzalez testified that the steering wheel suddenly jerked to the right, causing the car to go onto the shoulder of the road, and as Gonzalez tried to steer back to the road, the car flipped several times. A witness, Sam Rodriguez, testified that he saw the right front wheel wobble and lean to the right. Gonzalez and Navin sued Ford, claiming manufacturing defect, marketing defect, negligence, and violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. At trial, Trooper Caro, who investigated the accident, testified that the tire tracks were consistent with the right front wheel sliding sideways. Gonzalez and Navin’s expert witness, James Flanagan, M.E., testified that the tire wear that continued to recur was because of a misalignment of camber and caster, causing vibration in the ball joints and damaging them, which in turn loosened the wheel, causing it to wobble. Flanagan testified that based on the strut’s condition, the wheel must have come loose before the accident, and the accident could have been prevented if Ford had replaced the car’s front end. Ford retained its own engineering expert, Frederick Dahnke, who testified that the dealership repairs were appropriate and had corrected the problem each time, and that the right front tire typically shows more wear. Dr. Martinez, an accident reconstructionist, testified on behalf of Ford that Gonzalez jerked the steering to the right and then left, causing the accident. The jury found for Gonzalez and Navin on all counts. Ford appealed, arguing there was no evidence to support a finding that the alleged defect caused the accident.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lopez, J.)
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