In search of an indestructible car

The Madison County Record Mar. 14, 2010, 4:17pm

Imagine a remake of the blockbuster mobster saga, The Godfather.

In this modernized version, Sonny is killed in his car in a hail of bullets at the causeway tollbooth; but this time his father, Godfather Vito Corleone, ignores the Barzini family assassins and seeks vengeance on the car manufacturer that "knowingly and negligently" produced a vehicle unable to withstand a barrage of gunfire.

Maybe a remake is in the works for the popular girl-buddy film Thelma & Louise. The iconic ending remains intact as the two distaff desperados escape capture by driving over the edge of a cliff. But in the new version an epilogue follows in which Thelma's husband, Darryl, proves in court that the duo's wrongful deaths could have been prevented if their convertible had been properly engineered to sustain a 2000-foot fall.

We made up both absurd scenarios, but not the real-life drama playing out in court that has elements just as preposterous.

In 2003, while paused in their Lincoln Town Car at a construction area on Interstate 270, John and Dora Jablonski were rear-ended by another car going 65 mph. Their fuel tank exploded, killing John and leaving Dora severely burned. Though fault clearly lay with the other driver, Jablonski sued the Ford Motor Co., maker of the Town Car.

Amazingly enough, the jury decided against Ford in 2005, awarding Dora $43 million in damages. In late February, the Fifth District Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict.

Unless the State Supreme Court reverses the decision, it will be open season on car manufacturers. Anyone injured in an automobile under any circumstances whatsoever – during a flood, during an earthquake, during a terrorist attack – will be tempted to sue the manufacturer for failing to produce a car capable of surviving the pertinent catastrophe.

Let's hope our Supreme Court Justices stifle the potential feeding frenzy. Cars are not indestructible and neither is our judicial system.

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