S.C. justices overturn $18M Ford verdict

John O'Brien Mar. 15, 2010, 8:29pm


COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - The South Carolina Supreme Court has struck down an $18 million verdict against Ford, finding that an expert for the plaintiffs wasn't much of an expert.

Monday, the justices discredited the testimony of Bill Williams, an electrical engineer who claimed electromagnetic radiation interfered with the Ford Explorer driven by Sonya Watson during a 1999 crash that killed Patricia Carter.

Watson became a quadriplegic.

"In our view, there is no evidence to support the trial court's qualification of Williams as an expert in cruise control systems," Justice Jean Toal wrote.

"Williams had no knowledge, skill, experience, training or education specifically related to cruise control systems. Rather, it appears he merely studied the Explorer's system just before trial, which he indicated in his testimony to the jury: 'This is how I taught myself the (Explorer's) cruise control, or speed control system.'

"While Williams may have been qualified as an expert in other aspects of automobile components, such as the brake system, the trial court failed to properly evaluate Williams' qualifications specific to cruise control systems."

The Supreme Court also ruled that the trial court erred in admitting the testimony of Dr. Antony Anderson, an electrical engineer from Britain.

He testified that electromagnetic interference can interfere with the speed control component of a cruise control system and cause a vehicle to unexpectedly and uncontrollably accelerate.

Watson said her Explorer did just that, causing her crash.

The court said Anderson's testimony lacked any scientific basis.

"Dr. Anderson's background involved working with massive generators which have entirely different electrical wiring systems and different voltage levels," Toal wrote.

"He had no experience in the automobile industry, never studied a cruise control system, and never designed any component of a cruise control system."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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