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Jury Rules Ford Wasn’t Negligent

December 5, 1997

LACONIA, N.H. (AP) _ A jury ruled Thursday that Ford Motor Co. was not negligent for designing a car without an air bag before the federal government required the safety devices.

The family of 18-year-old Rebecca Anne Tebbetts, who died after crashing her Escort into a tree, had sued for $2.7 million.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Ford’s appeal that the lawsuit was unfair because federal requirements did not call for air bags in all cars when the Escort was built in 1988.

Bruce Felmly, lawyer for the Tebbetts family, said they were upset by the verdict and were ``trying to deal with their own grief a second time.″

The Tebbetts maintained that an air bag would have saved Rebecca’s life in the 1991 crash and that the car’s seat belt was defective. Felmly said he would be discuss appeal options with the family.

Ford lawyers argued that air bag technology was not sufficient for installing the safety devices in compact cars during the 1980s. They also said the seat belt system in Rebecca’s car was safe and denied the teen’s belt was defective.

Air bags now are required by the federal government on all new cars.

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