Las Vegas—Ford Motor Company’s expert in biomechanics testified that Rafael Trejo died when his body "dove" into the roof of an SUV during a rollover crash and not because the vehicle's roof was crushed, as Ford continued its defense Wednesday in a wrongful death suit.
Rafael Trejo fractured his cervical spine and died in a 2009 Ford Excursion SUV crash. Trejo’s widow Teresa is suing Ford, claiming that a design defect caused the vehicle’s roof to crush when it rolled over, pinning Rafael Trejo inside and suffocating him.
However, defense witness Jarrod Carter, a biomechanical analyst, rejected plaintiff's contention. Carter testified that Rafael's spine would not have been broken if his head had been pushed down toward his chest, as plaintiff contends. “If you’re putting (the neck) in flexion, you can stand on my head and put it through my chest, and you’re still not going to create a cervical spine injury,” Carter said.
Instead, Carter testified that he believed that Rafael Trejo fractured his neck in a "diving" injury, in which Trejo's body rolled with the movement of the vehicle and his head collided with the SUV's roof before it was crushed. Carter said vehicle and biomechanical experiments indicate that the collision of the head in diving, rather than roof crush, causes spinal fractures similar to Trejo's. Leading jurors through a series of animations and crash photos, Carter also testified that SUV's damage didn't support the finding that Trejo had been pinned in the vehicle.
Carter’s opinion is at odds with that of Joseph Peles, a biomechanics engineer and plaintiff's expert witness, who testified last Thursday that the wreckage of Trejo’s SUV seat, combined with damage to the roof and wall of the vehicle, proved Trejo’s head and neck had been pinned by the roof’s collapse in the rollover. Carter also testified that he believed that the rollover pinned Rafael Trejo between the seat bottom and the roof, bending his neck at an extreme angle and fatally cutting off his airway.
Teresa Trejo is seeking $27 million in the suit. The trial is expected to continue through the week.