Jury to deliberate verdict seeking more than $40 million from Ford

By Steve Gonzalez | Apr 19, 2005

Brad Lakin

With more than $40 million at stake in a personal injury verdict, jurors have begun considering whether Ford Motor Co. is responsible for the death of John Jablonski Sr. and the severe injuries sustained by his wife, Dora.

The Madison County trial lasted a little more than two weeks.

The Jablonskis, driving in their 1993 Lincoln Town car, were involved in a fiery crash in July 2003 on Interstate 270 in Madison County.

John Jablonski died two days after the accident. Dora suffered burns over much of her body.

“The last image Dora saw was her husband’s body completely on fire,” plaintiff attorney Bradley Lakin of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, told the jury during closing arguments Tuesday afternoon.

Lakin also is seeking punitive damages. He asked the jury to consider an amount that would be sufficient to punish Ford for willful and wanton conduct when it knew placing a fuel tank behind the axle was dangerous to drivers.

He argued that the vehicle's vertical behind-the-rear axle fuel tank was the cause of the vehicle's fire and that Ford knew of this risk since the late 1970s, but failed to fix the problem.

Jim Feeney, an attorney for Ford told jurors during opening arguments that this was a unique accident and that “you cannot design a car for every accident scenario.”

He said that the woman who collided with the Jablonskis, Natalie Ingram, was to blame for the accident. Ingram was included in the suit, but was dismissed last month by Circuit Court Judge Andy Matoesian.

Feeney also told the jurors that the Lincoln Town car was reasonably safe and asked the jurors to name a manufacturer that can anticipate every possible accident.

Matoesian gave jurors instructions, and the jurors started deliberations around 4 p.m.

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