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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Michael Boyle v. Ford Motor Company

03-18-08 A-0889-06T3

In this product liability appeal, we hold that Ford Motor
Company is not legally liable for the injuries plaintiff
suffered when his car collided and burrowed under the rear of a
truck which had been substantially modified by its owner after
leaving Ford's custody and control. This type of accident was
caused by the failure of a rear bumper safety device that was
installed on the chassis cab by the vehicle's final stage
manufacturer.
The chassis cab sold by Ford here was a component product,
intended as a generic platform, to be modified and retrofitted
to meet the needs of the vehicle's end-user. As such, it is
neither feasible nor practical to impose upon Ford the legal
responsibility for installing or providing the safety device at
issue here. Consistent with industry practices and federal
regulatory safety standards, the legal responsibility for
installing the rear bumper guard must lie with the truck's
final-stage manufacturer, because this entity is in the best
position to determine the type of safety device needed.
In reaching this conclusion, we adhere to the "feasibility
and practicality" standard articulated by our Supreme Court in
Zaza v. Marquess & Nell, Inc., 144 N.J. 34 (1996). Our analysis
is also informed by Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products
Liability § 5 (1998).