Christina M. Hinke


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What happens when small-town doctor goes mano a mano with big corporation

by Christina M. Hinke
The Associated Press
November 24, 2002
``Cape May Court House. A Death in the Night.'' By Lawrence Schiller. Harper Collins. 368 Pages. $24.95.

In "Cape May Court House," Lawrence Schiller describes what happens when a small-town doctor in New Jersey files a lawsuit against a big corporation.

It's the tale of a product liability lawsuit that seems typical, but with a twist.

The pages turn easily as readers become eager to learn what will happen next. Players include a respected doctor, his pregnant wife, a former girlfriend, and pesky in-laws.

One snowy night in 1997, a Ford Explorer driven by Tracy Thomas crashed into a pole at the side of the road. When investigators reached the scene, the driver and her unborn child were dead; and her husband, Dr. Eric Thomas, the front seat passenger, was unconscious.

Thomas sued the Ford Motor Co. claiming that his wife and unborn child died from injuries suffered when the vehicle's air bag did not properly inflate.

Ford turned the case around, contending that Thomas used the crash to cover the fact that he strangled his wife. Suddenly, the plaintiff and the defense had switched roles.

Schiller unfolds the legal battle one court session after another, presenting the many theories and facts. He gives both sides of the story and tells how one side's case eventually deflated. Excerpts of depositions are dispersed throughout the book.

Since Schiller was not granted an interview with Thomas, the book lacks his view and offers only Thomas' transcribed depositions and others' observations about him. Even though the story is somewhat heavy with facts, they never get in the way of this gripping, suspenseful tale.

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