Ford Motor Company recently settled a tragic case involving death of a 21 month old girl who was strangled by a rear-seat power window that she inadvertently activated. It turns out that the on-off switch could be activated with very little pressure, that the window rose quickly, and that there was no mechanism to stop the window if it encountered pressure. There was a wrinkle in the case, as is true for almost all personal injury cases – the girl’s mother had left the girl momentarily unattended with the engine running so that the air-conditioner could remain on. She had left the window open, likely thinking that was safest, as she might be able to hear her daughter. What undoubtedly caused Ford to settle was the fact that evidence would show that car makers have known about the danger of power window injuries and power window deaths, for decades. Not every hazard can be economically engineered out of every product. Nevertheless, when a product design is known to pose an unreasonable risk to children, especially when children are expected to use the product, manufacturers must be held accountable for refusing to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk.
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