A Miami Jury awarded 12 year old Mary “Phoebe” Jimenez and her parents Maria Beth and Ramon Philip Jimenez $30.8 million in damages against Ford Motor Company after finding Ford liable for improperly installing the air valve on the right-rear Goodyear tire of the family’s rented E-350 Econoline van.
The Jimenez’s traveled from the Philipines to New Jersey to meet up with relatives and, together, drive down to Orlando to celebrate Phoebe’s 10th birthday. On May 9, 1999, as the 12 member family was leaving Jacksonville on Interstate 95, the right rear tire suddenly exploded, causing the new van to rollover several times. The rollover crushed Phoebe, leaving her partially brain dead, in a vegetative state. The rollover also killed Phoebe’s aunt. “This is an important verdict because it tells Ford that they are accountable for the safety of their passengers and need to pay closer attention to quality control,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, the family’s attorney. “This didn’t have to happen. Phoebe would have lived her Disney Dream if Ford had taken an extra minute to ensure that the tire valve was properly installed. Due to Ford’s failure to properly install the right rear tire valve, the tire valve tore and the tire began losing air and pressure. Over time and miles traveled, the tire heated up, causing it to explode”.
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a report stating that vans, such as the E-350 Econoline, are 3 times more likely to rollover when there are more than 10 passengers in them, requiring special training to drive them. “The Jimenez van had 12 passengers in it. At no time did Ford advise of the need for special training. Unfortunately the Jimenez family paid the price for Ford’s neglect. My concern is that these vans are also being used as school buses and other means of transportation for children, the elderly and large groups”, said Gonzalez.
The Jimenez’s have hope that Phoebe’s condition will improve. “This verdict will never compensate for Phoebe’s losses but it will allow us to afford the doctors and years of therapy that Phoebe will require”, said Ramon Philip Jimenez. “We hope that through hard work, proper care and God’s Grace that Phoebe’s wish will someday come true – to go to Disney World”.
The jury found comparative negligence and reduced the verdict by 50%. Ervin A. Gonzalez was co-lead counsel on the case.