Armored vehicles for everyone!

By The Madison County Record | Dec 11, 2010

It would be nice if we could have limousines like President Obama's.

With armor several inches thick and wheels equipped with run-flat tires, we'd worry less about crashes and breakdowns.

Of course, a car with a $300,000 price tag is out of most people's reach.

For most of us, a trade off between safety and economy is unavoidable. If our budget allows, we might choose a Lincoln Town Car over a Volkswagen Beetle, but even the Town Car is not indestructible.

For instance, you wouldn't expect to suffer a rear-end collision from a car going 65 m.p.h. without your car being wrecked and you being seriously injured. A crash like that would leave a destructive mark even on the heavily-fortified presidential limo.

John and Dora Jablonski experienced such an impact in 2003, while paused in their 1993 Lincoln Town Car at a construction area on Interstate 270. They were rear-ended by an inattentive driver going 65 m.p.h. Their fuel tank exploded. John was killed and Dora was severely burned.

It was a horrible tragedy, caused by the negligence of the other driver.

But Dora Jablonski sued Ford Motor Co., blaming it for engineering a vehicle with a gas tank that could not withstand a 65-mph impact – even after 10 years on the road. Strangely, the jury agreed, awarding $43 million in damages, and the Fifth District Court of Appeals upheld the decision.

In a March 14, 2010 editorial, we warned of the consequences if that decision stands: "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."

Last month, Ford asked the Illinois state supreme court to overturn the verdict, arguing that manufacturers would otherwise be subject to open-ended liability.

That's a burden no manufacturer can shoulder, and is a dagger pointed at the heart of our already reeling economy.

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