Thus, if Ford had heightened the likeliness of burn injuries occurring, had increased their value for human life, and had used a cheaper unit cost of the repair fix, then Ford's risk-benefit analysis would have indicated that it would be more cost effective to implement the repairs than to risk human life. However, a NHTSA study indicated that only 27 deaths and 24 nonfatal burn injuries were attributed to rear-end fuel tank leakages. Ford officials decided to manufacture the car even though Ford owned the patent on a much safer gas tank. Is the college graduate worth more than the high school drop-out? So, even when a crash test showed that a one-pound, one-dollar piece of plastic prevented the gas tank from being punctured, the alternative was thrown out as extra cost and extra weight. Pinto was a best-selling subcompact. While the controversy behind the use of the value of human life in risk-benefit analysis still persists, it has become not only a common practice but an expected practice. While that may have been alright if additional precautions were taken to compensate, just the opposite was true: the gas tank had virtually no reinforcements protecting it. In reality, experts say that the ratio between burn injuries to burn deaths would be a much larger 10:1. Retrieved from. In the aftermath, Lee Iacocca had this to say: “Clamming up is what we did at Ford in the late ’70s when we were bombarded with suits over the Pinto, which was involved in a lot of gas tank fires. In 1978, following a damning investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Ford recalled all 1.5 million of its 1971–76 Pintos, as well as 30,000 Mercury Bobcats, for fuel system modification. However, later studies have made the claim that the case was a misunderstanding. Ford appealed the judgment, and the court reduced the award of punitive damages to $3.5 million. If a fire did occur, occupants were unlikely to escape: the doors had a tendency to jam shut after an impact, often trapping victims inside as the wreck burned. The families sued Ford Motor Company, and in 1978 the jury awarded them over $125 million in damages, though it was later reduced to $3.5 million by the judge[11]. In the Grimshaw court case, the defendants tried to use the document as a way to show Ford's lack of concern for safety. Ford, however, disregarded these solutions and stuck with their hefty estimate of $11. In April 1974, the Center for Auto Safety asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue a recall on the Ford Pinto to address the flaws in the fuel system design[18]. As Executive Vice President and later as President of Ford, Mr. Iacocca was the driving force behind the program to produce the Pinto. When Ford was developing the Pinto, the company needed a low-priced car in a hurry to compete with Volkswagen and Japanese imports. [23] Although there was difference between public opinion and the NHTSA study, Ford executives still performed the risk-benefit analysis. "That person would have been fired. Wojdyla, B. The suits might have bankrupted the company, so we kept our mouths shut for fear of saying anything that just one jury might have construed as an admission of guilt. Many years passed with no such regulations, however, as OSHA and the Reagan administration argued over the cash value of a human life. For starters, while calculating the benefits, Ford claimed that the incidence of burn injuries would equal the incidence of burn deaths. An official total of 27 deaths was tied to the vehicle, though some estimates are far higher. As of the mid-1970's about 30,000 Americans were subject to the fumes from the coal ovens in the steel making process. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyer, call our personal injury law offices at (215) 709-6940, or contact us online. Washington DC: Brookings Institution: 132. In 1974, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 301, legislation that was intended to tighten the standards for fuel system integrity in accidents, was ready to be released.