TorchFest Weekend: Reception for Abraham Lincoln
Enjoy An Event With Band Over! November 5!
Program: Ford Pinto Trial Remembered
In 1980, a jury returned “not guilty” verdicts on three counts of reckless homicide against the Ford Motor Company. The company was indicted after three teenagers were killed when their Ford Pinto burst into flames following a rear impact collision. The case came to Pulaski County on a change of venue from Elkhart County. For nine weeks beginning January 9, 1980, the town of Winamac was flooded with spectators, national reporters, lawyers and legal staff.
At the time, a number of civil suits were pending or had gone to trial across the country alleging that Ford had designed, built and sold defective automobiles. The Elkhart County Prosecutor upped the ante by pursuing a criminal case. This was the first time criminal charges had been brought against an American corporation for faulty product design. Because of the application of criminal law to corporate behavior, this litigation has been referred to as unprecedented and the trial has been called a landmark case.
Although Ford Motor Company was acquitted of all charges, the ramifications of this case were far-reaching. Many industry watchers believe regulators became tougher as a result of this trial, stating, “The only way we’re going to get quality products is to make corporate executives feel personally responsible for their decisions.” According to others, this trial raised both public consciousness and the awareness of manufacturers of their responsibility for public safety.
Annual Program March 10, 2016
At the Annual Program, a panel consisting of persons involved in the trial 36 years ago gave us their personal perspectives on the case, and the short- and long-range consequences to the legal industry, the auto industry, and to this small community.
We heard from two attorneys representing the prosecution, two jurors, a media representative and a local business owner. Their perspectives gave the audience an appreciation of the case, most importantly the facts that could and could not be presented to the jury.
Trial materials are on display at the Historical Society’s museum.