Tab Turner is a trial attorney from Little Rock, Arkansas. An All-American football player and a baseball player in college, he graduated from the University of Arkansas Law School with high honors and achieved the top grade on the Arkansas Bar Examination in the early 1980's. His father, Otis Turner, was likewise an attorney, and also was appointed to the Arkansas Supreme Court by then Governor Bill Clinton.
The bulk of Mr. Turner's professional career has been devoted to representing victims of SUV rollovers. Over 10,000 Americans are killed each year in rollover crashes. Mr. Turner's overarching contribution was in nailing Ford and Firestone for their reckless design decisions that have resulted in the deaths of over 200 people and serious injuries to 700 worldwide in Ford Expl
orers with Firestone tires. Without his unique ability and extraordinary investment of time, this story would not have been told. The public would not know how Ford decided in 1989 to take the air out of the tires rather than correct the design deficiencies of the Explorer that made it prone to rollover. Nor would the public know that because Ford reduced the air pressure recommended by Firestone, the poorly designed tire (made according to Ford specifications) experiences excessive heat exposure, causing it to lose its tread and the vehicle to roll.
This information was gathered by Mr. Turner over the ten years from litigation discovery in close to 50 lawsuits as well as in his almost 200 cases involving the Ford Bronco II, the predecessor vehicle on which the Explorer is heavily based. His $25 million Bronco II verdict in 1995 in Cammack v. Ford Motor Co. was the first case finding the Bronco II defective for its susceptibility to rollover. Over the years Mr. Turner has handled over 1000 single-vehicle rollover crash cases involving a wide variety of SUVs.
Most recently, Mr. Turner represented the family of Angelique Cintron who was killed in a Kia sport utility vehicle that rolled over while she was traveling home to West Palm Beach from Florida State University. After several years of litigation, a jury in West Palm Beach found the Kia defective and awarded the family $10,000,000.00.
Many trial attorneys develop expertise about particular products or issues in the course of their litigation. But few ever develop a public megaphone using the company documents they secure in discovery for public exposure of corporate malfeasance. And none have ever driven the reporting on a case like Mr. Turner has with Ford and Firestone. Most trial lawyers send their finished case documentation to off-site storage. Mr. Turner instead strategically fed one document after another to a very hungry press corps, forcing the companies to admit deficiencies in their products, and inciting the political system to react.
Beginning at a press conference with Public Citizen and SafetyForum.com on August 14, 2000, five days after Ford and Firestone announced the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires for losing their tread, Mr. Turner realized the press had many questions and few answers. He decided to enlighten the public using Ford and Firestone's own documents. They were free of any industry protective order because an early gag order in his first cases had faded away as the same documents were demanded again and again in case after case. One by one he connected with various reporters, explaining over and over the complex story and technical details in digestible portions. His insider documents kept the Ford/Firestone story on page one and the evening television news, and the companies off balance for almost three months. From file cabinets full of documents he sorted out the gems and exposed the story of how these two renowned giant American corporations knowingly decided to cut costs at the expense of their customers' safety.
His documents showed how Ford officials overruled engineering recommendations for structural and suspension redesign after the Explorer prototype experienced wheel lift in avoidance maneuver testing in order to prevent delaying the introduction date and additional costs--Day One, as it is called in Detroit. They also revealed how Ford insisted on weight reduction in its specs for Firestone tires to help compensate for the reduction in fuel efficiency when the tire pressure was reduced to avoid rollover, making the tires even more susceptible to failure. The documents alone were not clear because they are written using industry codes, with code names for the vehicles, the design decisions, the tests and the test outcomes. Only a knowledgeable expert could understand, translate and connect the documents to the full story. Mr. Turner filled that void day after day. He knew the names of the pertinent company officials, the engineering decisions, and the legal issues. He had deposed many of them, securing answers where no documents were available.
Mr. Turner's work on the Firestone/Ford case was the focus of a New York Times Magazine cover story in December 2000 (enclosed). In 2000 he was asked to help represent Consumers Union in two libel lawsuits against the publisher of Consumers Reports for its negative ratings of the Suzuki Samurai and Isuzu Trooper because of their tendency to rollover. He was named Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2001 by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, a national citizen rights organization supported by the best trial lawyers in America, Turner's competitors. He was a runner-up in the National Law Journal's 2001 Lawyer of the Year selection (John Ashcroft won). And in 2002 he was named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Trial Lawyers Association.
In April 2002 he helped Public Citizen write a report entitled: "The Forgotten Child", which analyzes the problems with current federal and state rules governing the protection of 4 to 8 year old children riding in cars, and recommends that the federal auto safety agency NHTSA study and require the installation of built-in child protection systems that protect all children up to age 8. Because cars are not now made to protect children, parents must purchase expensive infant, toddler and then booster seat systems that often are not properly installed, are not tested for each make and model vehicle in which they are installed, and are too expensive for some families. This report was sparked by Mr. Turner's case involving Jamaal Walker, a 7 year old who is now a quadriplegic because he was strapped in an adult safety belt that cut his spinal cord in a side impact crash in which his older brother and younger sister were not injured. As a result of this report, the Congress has told the NHTSA to conduct a major study of the advantages of built-in child seats in legislation that was enacted when President George Bush signed the law.
In November 2002, Mr. Turner and Public Citizen released a report entitled, "Stopping Rollovers: The Dual-Wheel Solution for 15-Passenger Vans". This study addressed the incredible rollover dangers of 15-passenger vans that are more likely to rollover the more they are loaded to capacity (the purpose for which the manufacturer sells them), and the absence of federal safety standards to protect consumers riding in these vehicles. It recommends a remedy discovered by Mr. Turner as part of his pre-trial testing and discovery: the installation of two rear wheels on either side of the vehicle. This design is used by the major manufacturers of these vehicles for some of their largest pickup trucks as optional equipment. But it is not offered for the 15 passenger vehicles which rollover far too readily and kill and injure many of the passengers when they do, as the manufacturers know well. They are often bought by church, college, and elderly groups for long trips.
Michael Douglas will soon star in Tragic Indifference, a courtroom thriller based on the landmark liability case against Ford, according to Variety. Douglas will play the attorney who took Ford to court on behalf of a single mother from Texas who was paralyzed and nearly died after an accident. The trial exposed the automaker's indifference to flaws in its SUVs. The movie will be based on Adam Penenberg's 2003 book of the same name. Douglas will play Tab Turner, who represented Donna Bailey after the Ford Explorer she was riding in rolled over following a Firestone tire failure.