Jury Awards Injured Ridgway Firefighter $3.56 million

In 2006, Timothy Beene, a firefighter for the Town of Ridgway, Colorado responded to a fire at Ridgway High School.  
 
Prior to the firefighter’s arrival, the Town Marshall, David Scott, also responding to the fire call arrived at the school.   Marshall Scott parked his 1997 Ford Expedition at the top of an open field with his emergency lights on so the fire department would know the location of the fire.  He then placed his vehicle in what he believed was Park, left the motor running to power his emergency overhead lights and radio, and then left the Expedition to direct other arriving emergency responders.   
 
After the fire had been extinguished, the fire department prepared to leave.   Timothy walked to his pickup truck, sat on the tailgate and began removing his fire gear.   Suddenly and unexpectedly, Marshall Scott’s unattended Expedition rolled down the hill about 90 feet, slammed into Timothy and his truck, pinning him between the runaway Expedition and the firefighter’s truck.  
 
An investigation following the motor vehicle collision revealed that the column mounted shift lever on the Ford Expedition was able to be placed in a position known as hydraulic neutral or illusory park.  This is the area between the reverse gear and the parking gear.  Marshall Scott claimed that the vehicle was able to be placed in hydraulic neutral because a steering column bushing was permitted to wear and would slip out of place.   When the bushing was out of place the shift column assembly on the 1997 Ford Expedition did not operate correctly and permitted the vehicle to be placed in the dangerous condition of illusory park.  The bushings were originally designed for the 1992 Ford Econoline van.  Prior to the release of the 1992 Ford Econoline, Ford engineers recognized that the bushing would wear down so its thickness was increased.  The change in design did not correct the problem.  In 1999 Ford had received bushing failure reports on the 1997 Expedition, the Ford F-150 pickup, the Ford F-250 and the 1999 Super Duty F-series.  As a result, Ford provided information to dealers telling them to replace the worn bushing.  Ford never provided written warning to any of its customers.  By 2000, Ford finally solved the bushing wear problem by placing a metal shoulder on the shift tube so that regardless of where the bushing would always stay in place.   
 
Timothy suffered numerous injuries including a broken right femur, broken right tibia, broken right fibula, broken left fibula, left bimalleolar fracture and a crush injury to the left ankle.  He had undergone seven surgeries since 2006 and would require four additional surgeries including a knee replacement and ankle fusion.  His past medical expenses at the time of trial were approximately $341,000, and he was occupationally disabled because of his injuries.  He suffered noneconomic injuries; future loss of wages; and permanent physical impairment and disfigurement.  
 
The jury verdict for Timothy was $3,565,000.

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