Judges Say Accident Victims Can Sue Ford in State Court


The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Ford Motor Co. can be sued in state court for people who were killed or seriously injured in accidents involving Ford vehicles.

The judges unanimously rejected the Michigan-based company’s argument that its ties to Minnesota and Montana were too weak to allow accident victims to sue it in those states.

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The ruling could make it easier to file lawsuits in state courts against other automakers and companies doing business across the country.

Ford argued that because the cars were originally sold elsewhere and resold as used cars to people in Minnesota and Montana, the company should not have to face civil lawsuits in either state.

Judge Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion of the court holding that “the connection between the plaintiffs’ claims and Ford’s activities in those states … is close enough” to allow the lawsuits to proceed.

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“By every means imaginable, including billboards, television and radio spots, print ads, and direct mail, Ford encourages Montanans and Minnesotans to purchase their vehicles,” Kagan wrote. “Ford cars … are available for sale, whether new or used, across the United States at 36 dealerships in Montana and 84 in Minnesota. And in addition to sales, Ford works hard to foster ongoing connections with customers. owners of their cars “

Both accidents occurred in 2015. In one, Markkaya Gullett was killed when the tread separated from a rear tire on the 1996 Ford Explorer he was driving in Montana. “The vehicle turned, rolled into a ditch and came to a stop face down. Gullett died at the scene of the accident, ”wrote Kagan. Gullett was married with two children.

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The other accident, in Minnesota, seriously injured Adam Bandemer, who was riding in his friend’s 1994 Crown Victoria, when he rear-ended a snowplow on the way to an ice fishing spot. Bandemer’s airbag did not deploy, Kagan wrote.

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Ford, which is based in Dearborn, Michigan, tried to dismiss the lawsuits and when the superior courts of Montana and Minnesota ruled against it, the company appealed to the Supreme Court.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett was not involved in the case because it was argued in early October, before she joined the court.

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