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Cape May Court House

Cover of Cape May Court House

Cape May Court House

A Death in the Night
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No one in Cape May Court House, New Jersey was surprised when Eric Thomas, a popular young local doctor, sued the Ford Motor Company for the wrongful death of his pregnant wife, Tracy. After all, the accident they were involved in was minor and they were driving a big, powerful Explorer. Nevertheless, Tracy died in the accident, leaving behind not just her husband, but also her cherished young daughter Alix.

Backed by the medical examiner's findings, the lawsuit claimed that the Explorer's air bag inflated improperly, causing injuries that resulted in Tracy's suffocation. But what starts out as a simple product-liability case rapidly evolves into something altogether different when Ford alleges that Tracy Thomas died not from a defective air bag, but as the result of manual strangulation. Before long, Ford becomes a de facto prosecutor and Eric Thomas stands accused of murdering his wife.

Investigative journalist Lawrence Schiller, bestselling author of American Tragedy and Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, exposes the tactics used by the attorneys on both sides of this civil suit, and uncovers the lie that eventually torpedoes one party's case.

No one in Cape May Court House, New Jersey was surprised when Eric Thomas, a popular young local doctor, sued the Ford Motor Company for the wrongful death of his pregnant wife, Tracy. After all, the accident they were involved in was minor and they were driving a big, powerful Explorer. Nevertheless, Tracy died in the accident, leaving behind not just her husband, but also her cherished young daughter Alix.

Backed by the medical examiner's findings, the lawsuit claimed that the Explorer's air bag inflated improperly, causing injuries that resulted in Tracy's suffocation. But what starts out as a simple product-liability case rapidly evolves into something altogether different when Ford alleges that Tracy Thomas died not from a defective air bag, but as the result of manual strangulation. Before long, Ford becomes a de facto prosecutor and Eric Thomas stands accused of murdering his wife.

Investigative journalist Lawrence Schiller, bestselling author of American Tragedy and Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, exposes the tactics used by the attorneys on both sides of this civil suit, and uncovers the lie that eventually torpedoes one party's case.

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About the Author-
  • Lawrence Schiller ranks among our greatest investigative journalists. In addition to his bestselling books, he has written for the New Yorker and other major publications. For many years he has appeared as an on-air consultant for the ABC and NBC networks. He lives in Los Angeles.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 17, 2002
    In his latest, Schiller, who has previously written bestsellers on the JonBenet Ramsey and O.J. Simpson cases (American Tragedy, etc.), offers a no-frills narrative: no character development, no background and no resolution. It's a just-the-facts account that, nevertheless, keeps the pages turning. The question of whether or not a crime has actually been committed drives the narrative. Late one winter night in 1997, Eric Thomas, a dentist, and his wife, Tracy, were found in a car crash on a New Jersey highway; Tracy, pregnant, was dead in the driver's seat. The medical examiner determined that the airbag in the Ford Explorer caused her death, and Thomas brought a suit against Ford. But there are some disturbing questions: Why, before going on a vacation with her husband, had Tracy told her mother, "if anything happens to me," her mother should take Tracy's daughter, Alix, to her home? Why did Thomas go on several unexplained trips after his wife's death? And there were no prior cases on record of air-bag asphyxiation. Based on the report of its own forensic expert, Dr. Michael Bader, and their discovery that Thomas had been having an affair just before the accident, Ford accused Thomas of strangling his wife to death. Was this, as Thomas's lawyers claimed, a case of a huge corporation throwing its weight against a bereaved individual? Or was it, as Ford's lawyers said, a case of murder disguised as an accident? Much of the narrative consists of legal battles over discovery and pretrial motions and extracts from Thomas's and others' depositions, and it is compelling, though Thomas (who did not grant Schiller interviews) remains a frustrating cipher. (Sept.)Forecast:Lacking the front-page immediacy of Schiller's bestsellers, this will be a test of whether his name alone can sell his work.

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  • Publisher
    HarperCollins
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Cape May Court House
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A Death in the Night
Lawrence Schiller
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