Ford Settles Air Bag LawsuitFeb 26, 2002 | AP
Ford Motor Co. has agreed to pay $1.5 million to the family of a Des Plaines woman killed after her vehicle's air bags deployed too late.
The settlement was reached Thursday with the family of Marion Evans, 48, who died in 1998 after driving into a light pole in a parking lot on a rainy night.
When the air bag in Evans' 1998 Ford Ranger pickup deployed, it knocked her head back, fatally snapping her neck, family attorney Mario Palermo said. The truck was traveling 19 mph.
Computer sensors in the truck's data recorder revealed that it took 118 milliseconds after impact for the air bags to deploy, more than twice as long as Ford had determined as safe, lawyers for the plaintiffs and Ford said.
"The bags are supposed to deploy within 50 to 60 milliseconds. It doesn't seem like a lot ... but those seconds are crucial," Palermo said, adding that Evans' head got to within inches of the steering wheel before the bag deployed.
Lawyers for Ford said that Evans' death was caused by a congenital disorder in which several vertebrae in her neck were fused. That meant she was at extreme risk of dying in any car accident, Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said.
"The co-worker she was driving home in the passenger seat wasn't even wearing a seat belt, and he came away with no injury," Vokes said. "Both air bags deployed at the same time, but Evans was just extremely vulnerable. It wouldn't matter what car she was driving."
Ford lawyer Mark Boyle said the company agreed to the settlement, which came two weeks before a trial was to begin in federal court, because of the uncertainty of a jury trial and the computer evidence.