United States v. Ford

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United States District Court, District of Columbia.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,



Civ. A. No. 76-29.

July 6, 1978.

United States brought action against automobile manufacturer seeking order declaring that certain model automobiles contained defect relating to motor vehicle safety and requiring manufacturer to immediately notify owners, purchasers and dealers of existence of defect and to remedy the defect free of charge. The District Court, John Lewis Smith, Jr., J., held that risk to drivers of automobiles caused by defect in windshield wiper pivot assemblies on certain model automobiles was an unreasonable risk under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, requiring automobile manufacturer to immediately notify owners, purchasers and dealers of existence of defect and remedy the defect.

Judgment for plaintiff.


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8. "Motor vehicle safety" as defined by the Safety Act, means:

(T)he performance of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment in such a manner that the public is protected against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring as a result of the design, construction of performance of motor vehicles and is also protected against unreasonable risk of death or injury to persons in the event accidents do occur, and includes nonoperational safety of such vehicles. 15 U.S.C. § 1391(1).

9. The basic purpose of the Safety Act is to reduce motor vehicle accidents, injuries, and property damage.

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11. * * * Even if drivers pull to the side of the road and bring their vehicles to a stop on the shoulder they are still exposed to the risk of being struck from behind by a moving vehicle. Some drivers, unable to proceed because of loss of forward visibility, have even brought their vehicles to a stop in the middle of lanes intended for moving traffic. Having brought their vehicles to a stop, drivers imperiled by the windshield wiper failure have exited their vehicles in order to extricate themselves from the unsafe circumstances into which they have involuntarily been thrust. This too exposes them to the further risk of being struck by a moving vehicle. Vehicle collisions and attendant injuries have been associated with windshield wiper failure in the past.

For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that the Design Level I and Design Level II pivot assemblies contain a "defect" and that said "defect" poses an unreasonable risk within the meaning of the Safety Act.

Accordingly, finding will be entered for the plaintiff. Counsel for the government will present an appropriate order within five days.