Faculty Research at Morehead State University

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In 1978, in Elkhart County Indiana, three teenage girls died following an "accident" in which their Ford Pinto was struck from behind and burst into flames. Two years later, in what has been described as a landmark case (Maakestad, 1987; Clinard, 1990; Frank and Lynch, 1992; Hills, 1987), a trial began in which the Ford Motor Company, as a result of this incident, found itself facing three charges of reckless homicide (State of Indiana v. Ford Motor Company, hereafter referred to as the Pinto Case). While this was not the first time an automobile manufacturer was faced with a potentially lethal faulty design (the Chevrolet Covair among others), it was the first case to result in a criminal homicide charge. The Pinto case has received considerable attention in the criminological and legal literature, ranging from journal articles (Clark, 1979; Swigert and Farrell, 1980-81; Wheeler, 1981), to discussions in textbooks (Albanese, 1995; Green, 1997), to books focusing on the case in varying degrees (Birsch and Fielder, 1994; Cullen et al., 1987; Strobel, 1980; Welty, 1982).



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