Ford could be forced to pay $1.7 billion in punitive damages as a jury in Georgia returned its verdict on Friday, Aug. 19. This comes after the death of a couple whose 2002 Ford F-250 Super Duty's roof caved in on them during a rollover. According to the Associated Press, Ford plans to appeal the decision.
The initial crash occurred in April 2014 when a tire came off Melvin and Voncile Hill's F-250 on a state highway. In 2018, the couple's children sued Ford, alleging that their parents' truck had a dangerously defective roof. Their lawyers reportedly provided evidence of 80 similar rollovers where occupants also suffered injury or death.
Per Courtroom View Network, the initial legal proceedings ended in a mistrial after Ford was found to have deliberately, repeatedly violated court orders limiting the testimony of a provided expert, whom a judge concluded had spoken beyond their field of knowledge. Ford's lawyer reportedly violated court directives by suggesting that the Hill couple had not worn seatbelts during the crash and that Melvin Hill had alcohol in his bloodstream at the time. A toxicology report, however, exonerated Mr. Hill of drinking and driving.
"Ford intentionally, and after several warnings and admonitions, elicited testimony that forced this Court to declare a mistrial," said Judge Shawn Bratton, according to CVN. "Plainly, Ford willfully caused a mistrial in this case, in bad faith, and issue preclusion sanctions are appropriate."
The case returned to court in Gwinnett County, where on Sunday, the jury returned the above verdict of $1.7 billion against Ford. The plaintiffs reportedly specifically sought a jury verdict and punitive damages with them, as a warning to other drivers of affected trucks.
Ford's lawyers reportedly denied the plaintiffs' accusations, claiming it is "simply not the case" that Ford recklessly designed a weak roof. Ford has not yet returned our request for comment, though it did tell the Wall Street Journal that it plans to appeal the decision.
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