5 Star v. Ford MotorAnnotate this Case
Petitioner 5 Star, Inc. is a lawn maintenance and pressure washing company owned by Stan Shelby. In February 2005, 5 Star purchased a used 1996 Ford F-250 pickup truck. Several months later, Shelby parked the truck for the weekend in 5 Star's North Charleston warehouse. Two days later, Shelby returned to the warehouse and discovered that a fire had occurred. The truck was destroyed, and the warehouse was severely damaged. The Chief Fire Investigator for the North Charleston Fire Department, performed an investigation and observed that the truck was located in the middle of the warehouse, where the most extensive damage occurred. The Chief noted the engine compartment of the truck was the likely origin of the fire. 5 Star filed a products liability action against Ford Motor Co. for negligent design of the speed control deactivation switch (deactivation switch), seeking actual and punitive damages. The court of appeals reversed a jury verdict awarding $41,000 in actual damages in a negligent design products liability action based on the failure of the trial court to grant a directed verdict. The trial court qualified petitioner-expert Leonard Greene as an expert in electrical engineering and fire origin and cause. The court of appeals, however, found that Greene was not "qualified as an expert in automotive design or any other area of expertise that would enable [him] to offer opinions as to whether Ford's conduct was negligent." 5 Star claimed that the court of appeals erred and that Greene's extensive qualifications in electrical engineering related to automobiles were sufficient to enable him to testify regarding Ford's exercise of due care. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings.