Jury awards damages to women hurt when Mustang caught fire But Carroll panel absolves Ford Motor Co. of blame

December 15, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County jury awarded damages yesterday to two women who were burned when their 1981 Mustang caught fire in a 1996 collision -- but only from the driver of the other vehicle, not from Ford Motor Co.

Trial began Dec. 1 in the civil case, brought by plaintiffs Jacqueline M. Maize, 35, who was driving her husband's Mustang on Route 97 near Union Mills when the accident occurred June 4, 1996, and Christine L. Griggs, 32, a passenger who was severely burned.

The vehicle was struck from behind by a Jeep driven by Howard C. Schroeder, 29, of Finksburg.

After the verdict, Maize left the Carroll Circuit courtroom before anyone else. Both women appeared unhappy, and they and their attorney, Roger Powell of Pikesville, declined to comment.

The jurors found that Schroeder was negligent and caused the injuries. They found that Ford was not negligent in its design of the fuel system for the 1981 Mustang. Grace den Hartog of Richmond, Va., a Ford attorney, said she was pleased with the verdict.

Schroeder and his lawyers were not available at the courthouse for comment after the verdict.

Jurors determined that damages amounted to $419,000 for Griggs, including $330,000 for past medical expenses. They found damages amounted to $20,600 for Maize, who escaped the car and tried to pull Griggs out with help from Schroeder and others.

In his closing arguments, Powell asked the jury to award the women a total of $1.4 million.

Attorneys for Schroeder and Ford argued that Maize was partially responsible for the accident because she braked to make a left turn -- an allegation of contributory negligence rejected by the jury.

The impact from the Jeep forced the northbound Mustang into the southbound lane, where it was struck by a Ford van.

Attorneys for Ford argued that the second impact caused the Mustang to burst into flames. They also told the jury the Mustang had been significantly modified from the vehicle built by Ford, and that no car at that time could have withstood such an impact.

dTC After two weeks of sometimes heated, graphic and emotional testimony, the jury of one man and five women got the case Thursday. They deliberated about 13 hours over three days before returning their verdict to Judge Francis M. Arnold about 2 p.m. yesterday.

Pub Date: 12/15/98

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