There was a trial and Ford was found to be at fault. Also, punitive damages were awarded against Ford in the amount of $125 million and later remitted (reduced) to $3.5 million by the judge. The verdict was sustained by the California Court of Appeals.
If you'd like to read more about it, here's a link to the opinion:
You're safe in your cars -- and so are your kids -- partly due to the efforts of trial lawyers. The only way that your average person can hold a company like Ford or Merck accountable for their conduct is via a lawsuit, and possibly a trial. That is the only way.
So, if you are ever rear-ended and your car doesn't explode, thank a trial lawyer. And remember this, the current push for tort "reform" doesn't seek to protect your interests. It seeks to protect the interests of big business -- at your expense.