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The Ford Motor Pinto Case

Once in a while, companies make design flaws that end up causing irreversible harm or death to people. In such cases, victims’ families are usually advised to take up a wrongful death lawyer from institutions like Robert J. DeBry & Associates to build their cases. Such was the predicament Ford faced in 1970.

Ford Pinto 1971

Ford Motor management made a dubious choice about the location and protection of the fuel tank in an endeavor to create an attractive but reasonably priced subcompact car with a low operating cost. This constrained the engineers’ positioning and safety options for fuel tanks. Instead of being over the axle, Ford Motor put the tank behind the rear axle.

Civil cases

Early Pinto models had a flaw that left them vulnerable to gasoline leaks and fires following relatively low-speed rear-end crashes, which affected how well the car initially sold. The car’s back end would be crushed in a rear-end accident, pushing the fuel tank up, splitting it, and releasing the filling pipe. Sometimes the fuel spilled, and the sparks from the collision started fires that resulted in fatalities or severe burns. Many of these victims or their loved ones sued Ford Motor in civil court, with about 50 cases.

Ford’s criminal case

Judy Ulrich, then 18 years old, her 16-year-old sister Lynn, and their 18-year-old cousin Donna were killed when their 1973 Ford Pinto was hit from behind by a van on August 10, 1978, close to Elkhart, Indiana. On contact, Pinto’s gas tank blew up. The three teens died from burn injuries sustained in the ensuing fire. Through a wrongful death lawyer, Ford was accused of murder in a criminal act but was declared not guilty of murder by a jury on March 13, 1980.


Robert J. DeBry & Associates have well-trained wrongful death lawyers who can help you build and win such slippery cases. Your loved one deserves justice, and the family deserves closure.


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