Ford cruise control suit to be heard by Ruth on Dec. 2

Amelia Flood Nov. 22, 2010, 9:33am


Ford Motor Co. will argue for summary judgment in a Madison County case brought by an F-150 owner who says his pick-up's cruise control malfunctioned, causing him to accelerate and crash into a tree.

Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth is set to hear the motion at 9 a.m. on Dec. 2.

Plaintiff Brian Williams filed suit in 2007, seeking damages in excess of $50,000 and costs.

Ford argues that an expert witness hired by Williams to prove a design defect required under Illinois law only speculates to the cause of the accident and therefore doesn't meet the opinion standard laid out by state law.

According to his complaint, Williams was driving his truck on Feb. 4, 2005 when his cruise control malfunctioned, causing the car to accelerate without his action and crash.

Williams claims he was injured in the crash and that a design defect in the cruise control caused it.

Ford then filed counterclaims against the next year, alleging that Williams spoiled evidence in the case.

The company contends that Williams did not preserve his truck for the litigation even though he should have known it was material evidence in the case.

The company claims Williams negligently allowed his insurance company to dispose of the car without informing the insurer that the truck was needed as evidence.

In the March 2010 motion for summary judgment, Ford argues that Gerald Cohn, Ph.D., an expert retained by Williams, does not state definitively that a defect in the cruise control caused the accident.

The company points to Cohn's discovery deposition and his report in which the company claims Cohn speculates rather than gives a definite opinion about cause.

In an excerpt from a deposition taken by the defendant, defense attorney Michael Borree asks Cohn if he can offer an opinion about whether there is a design defect in the plaintiff's truck.

"I'm not comfortable opining on that," Cohn answers in the excerpt.

Ford goes on to claim Williams does not offer evidence of the defect and that the company should be granted summary judgment in the case.

Lon Weaver represents Williams.

Michael Borree of Chicago represents Ford.

The case is Madison case number 07-L-111.

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