Civil jury rejects Gilchrist's liability claim

— Staff Report

November 12, 2013 

More than two years after the life altering accident involving herself and her two children, Brittany Gilchrist did not receive the verdict she was hoping for.

A Fresno civil jury has rejected Gilchrist's liability claim against Ford for causing the accident that almost claimed her life back in 2011.

On June 22, 2011 Gilchrist was involved in a head-on-collision on Highway 41 just north of North Fork Road (200), when the driver of a Ford F-250 lost control (caused by tire tread separation) and swerved across the double-yellow line annihilating Gilchrist's Nissan Sentra.

Gilchrist, who was 28 at the time of the accident, suffered two broken femurs, a fractured tibula and knee, along with internal injuries and sternum damage. Gilchrist was medevaced following the accident and spent days in the hospital.

According to the Fresno Bee, Gilchrist was visibly upset following the jury's announcement and made it clear she believed justice had not been served.

"We tried to make it known, but big companies always win out," Gilchrist said. "It was a miracle we survived...but God is good and we are alive."

The trial lasted nearly five weeks and the prosecution's evidence included information about Ford's hydro hoost system, which shares the same hydraulic lines as the power steering aspect of the truck.

Gilchrist's attorneys, Richard Watters and Doug Gordon, were unable to successfully argue and convince the jury that the unified hydraulic system becomes faulty when the brakes are applied because it starves the power steering of hydraulic fluid, making it more difficult to maneuver and steer.

According to Watters, Gordon and Gilchrist, this was likely the reason the driver of Ford's F-250 could not make the proper adjustment in time to avoid a head-on with Gilchrist.

"They are very difficult to beat," Watters said. "They hire top-notched lawyers and have unlimited resources."

According to the Fresno Bee, Gordon said they have no choice but to accept the outcome of the case.

"Evidently, they didn't believe our version, that the truck has anti-lock brakes, so the right wheel kept spinning and didn't leave a skid mark," Gordon said.

Gilchrist's life was spared that dreadful day due to the heroic efforts of a few witnesses who happened to be driving by. One of those heroes, 68-year-old Robert Vannata, of Mariposa, received a rescue award from the American Red Cross and was honored by Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler and 19th District Representative Jeff Denham for his brave and life-saving deed.

Vannata arrived on the scene of the accident and realized the severity of the situation rather quickly. Within a few minutes of pulling Gilchrist out of the vehicle, the Sentra erupted into flames.

California Highway Patrol Sergeant Edward Greene, who was on the scene of the accident after Gilchrist had been removed from the vehicle, said the act of heroism saved Gilchrist and her children's lives.

"If it weren't for those individuals (that stopped to help), there would have been three people burned up and deceased in the vehicle," Greene said.

Gilchrist now suffers disabilities and the Ford company is not required to pay any money to the family.

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