Dora and John Jablonski were driving through a construction zone in 2003 when the traffic caused them to come to a stop in their 1993 Lincoln Town Car; when another vehicle slammed into the rear of their aging luxury car at 55-65 miles per hour. An unspecified item in the trunk punctured the fuel tank which caused the Town Car to burst into flames and in the end – Dora was badly burnt and her husband John was dead. The immediate court case following the accident in Iowa found Ford liable and ordered them to pay $43 million in damages to Dora and the estate of the late John Jablonski but Ford Motor Company appealed – insisting that there was no flaw that caused the accident or ensuing fire.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the legal counsel of the Jablonski family failed to prove that Ford was responsible for the accident, fire, death or injuries to the family. while the Jablonski’s lawyer argued that the location of the Town Car’s fuel tank – behind the rear axle – was the reason for the fire and death of his client, Ford pointed out that the 1993 Lincoln Town Car met-or-exceeded all federal crash test requirements and the fuel tank location was in accordance with all federal standards.
Many vehicles (especially from that era) have the fuel tank mounted between the rear axle and the rear bumper with a structural system designed to deflect any impact around the tank rather than through it. However, for a vehicle traveling roughly 60 miles per hour to slam into a 10 year old vehicle sitting in traffic, this would cause devastating damage to almost any vehicle that isn’t designed for warfare or demolition derby. While it was unfortunate for the Jablonski family to have to go through the horrible accident, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that Ford had done their job of providing a safe vehicle and the automaker was not at fault – thus they are not required to pay the massive $43 million settlement for damages to the family.
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