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Denny V. Ford Motor Company Case

In: Business and Management

Submitted By madams
Words 794
Pages 4
In this case, Nancy Denny was under the impression that she was purchasing a Ford Bronco. She was purchasing this Bronco because of its perceived safety benefits of its four-wheel-drive capacity and its ability to switch between two and four wheel drive if she had concerns about driving in the snow and ice. She testified that she did not purchase the Bronco for any off road purposes and that according to the sales presentation the Bronco was very suitable for commuting and for suburban and city driving. The sales presentation is geared to sell the Bronco based on all of its positives of everyday practical uses and does not go into detail of potential safety issues of this vehicle being engineered basically as an off road vehicle. According to Ford the vehicle had been intended to be used as an off-road vehicle and not designed as a passenger automobile, which is what Nancy Denny had believed she was purchasing, she was not at all interested in it’s off road use. (Halbert/Ingulli, 2012, p 307)
There were three grounds in which Nancy Denny approached this legal battle with Ford Motor Company. The first of which was a strict products liability approach. This approach is used when a manufacturer places a product on the market for sale when the product has a defective. The manufacturer becomes liable for injuries suffered as a result of the product being defective when the product was used for its intended or reasonably intended purpose. Therefore, Nancy Denny would need to prove that Ford Motor Company had placed the Bronco II on the market with knowledge that the vehicle had a defect and could cause injuries to its owner. She would do this by pointing out that the vehicle had an extremely low stability index that was attributed to its high center of gravity and narrow track width compared to other passenger vehicles. Nancy Denny also sued Ford, asserting negligence, which ultimately requires a fact finder to make a judgment about Ford’s judgment in selling a product with a known defect. Nancy Denny’s final ground for the lawsuit was Ford was in breach of the warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code. (Halbert/Ingulli, 2012, p 307)
The jury came back with a mixed verdict. They did not feel that the Bronco was unreasonably dangerous and defective; therefore Nancy Denny did not succeed on the grounds of strict product liability, but the jury did feel that Ford had violated the implied warranty of merchantability, and in doing so, breached its contract by selling the vehicle to Nancy Denny when the vehicle was not fit for its ordinary purpose. Because of this the jury found in favor of Nancy Denny on the grounds of breach of implied warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code.
Judge Simons dissented on the case stating that he felt consumer expectation had no place in personal injury litigation alleging a design defect and may result in imposing absolute liability on marketers of consumers’ products. He continued by stating that defectively designed products should be determined in a personal injury action by a risk/utility analysis. (Halbert/Ingulli, 2012, p 309) I don’t agree with Judge Simons that the majority imposes a kind of absolute liability on Ford in this case. In absolute liability a plaintiff would only have to prove the product caused harm and would not have to prove how the manufacturer was careless. By finding that Ford had breached the warranty they did in fact show how the manufacturer was careless by Ford selling a vehicle that was not fit for its ordinary purpose.
Ford needed to market the Bronco differently than it had in order to avoid liability. It should have marketed the Bronco as an off road utility vehicle that is capable of being a passenger vehicle under strict circumstances. Ford should also have better informed their sales staff on what the ultimate purpose of the vehicle was so that they could properly determine who was best suited for the vehicle.

The marketing campaigns in the Saray Perez v. Wyeth Laboratories Inc. and the Denny v. Ford case are similar in the fact that the manufactures are marketing their product directly to the consumers and the consumers are responsible for making their own decisions based on the advertising by the manufacturer. They are different in the fact that drug manufacturers are relying on doctors to know their patients well enough to know whether or not to prescribe their drug, while automotive manufacturers cannot rely on anyone to know their customers well enough to know exactly how they will be using their vehicle.

References
Halbert, T., & Ingulli, E. (2012). Law & ethics in the business environment (7th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western.

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