$1.7 Billion Verdict Highlights Complexity of Motor Liability Cases | Patrick Malone & Associates PC | DC Damages Lawyers

Even the staunchest believer in the wisdom of juries in civil suits needed to pause. But, yes, the verdict in an Atlanta case was correctly reported. Jurors deliberating over damage caused in the overturning of a Ford 250 truck have indeed ordered the automaker to pay the families of the two people killed in the car crash a sum that apparently set a record in such proceedings in Georgia: $1.7 billion.

The jurors awarded the sum after years of litigation, described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as:

“Voncile Hill, 62, and her husband Melvin Hill, 74, died after their tire burst on a Sumter County highway in 2014 and their 2002 Ford Super Duty F-250 pickup truck rolled over . It involved farmers traveling from their home in Macon County to Americus to pick up a tractor part, James E. Butler said, [an attorney with the firm] by Butler Prather [representing the couple’s family] … The kids sued Ford and Pep Boys, among others. The jury determined that Ford sold 5.2 million “Super Duty” trucks with flimsy roofs that would crush people inside during rollovers. The defect was present in all “Super Duty” models between 1999 and 2016, Butler said. »

The newspaper reported this information on how jurors assessed liability in this trial and how their award to plaintiffs will be divided:

“Three-quarters of the punitive damages go to the State of Georgia, pursuant to state law for product liability cases. The jury… awarded Kim and Adam Hill over $24 million for the wrongful death and pain and suffering of their parents. The jury determined that 30% of the damages went to Pep Boys for installing the wrong size tires on the truck, causing the blowout. Butler said evidence showed the wreckage could survive and the Hills died because they were crushed by the roof of the truck. The trial lasted three weeks. The case was first tried in 2018 but ended in a mistrial. Lawyers presented evidence of nearly 80 similar wrecks where people had been killed or injured when the roofs of trucks crushed them in rollovers.

The Pep Boys settled down earlier with the family. Ford said it would appeal the case, saying the jurors’ findings were not supported by evidence, which the automaker says shows the company’s hugely popular trucks are safe and compliant. federal regulations, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Still, the company’s shares took a hit, losing 4% of its value the day after the jury’s verdict was announced.

Investors likely knew from the news reports that Ford itself had “identified 162 lawsuits and 83 similar roof-crushing incidents in the 1999-2016 Super Duty truck,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

While Ford argued that Hill missteered the truck after its tire ruptured, causing it to leave the roadway at an unsafe angle, and the company argued that the truck’s tire had an incorrect load rating leading to its failure, the Wall Street Journal also reported this:

“Attorneys for the plaintiffs pointed to evidence they said showed the roof on these trucks failed internal company tests and that Ford engineers developed a stronger roof for its Super Duty pickups in 2004. , but that roof wasn’t used in trucks sold to customers until the 2017 model year, according to court documents.

In another follow-up article, the newspaper added even more information about regulatory and safety issues with very popular trucks of certain sizes and weights:

“Federal regulators have ruled out heavy-duty trucks like the pickup at the center of a recent $1.7 billion verdict against Ford Motor Co. from tougher roof strength requirements enacted decades ago, then later reversed the decision to include future models. The rules, which were expanded more than 30 years ago to include lighter trucks, were intended to better protect occupants in the event of a rollover. Automakers including Ford had lobbied before the rule change not to apply the stricter standards to their heavier trucks, government documents show, saying the safety benefits were still uncertain for these types of vehicles. The regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, then decided not to include heavier trucks in the regulations. In 2009, following a congressional order, NHTSA extended stricter roof safety rules to trucks with higher gross weight…Often, in cases involving high punitive damages, the final amount is reduced in the appeal process. The case highlights how automotive regulations that change over time can become a point of contention years later when safety issues emerge over older vehicles. The federal roof-crushing requirement was invoked by plaintiffs in the Georgia lawsuit, as well as similar cases involving Ford trucks and fatal rollover crashes, records show.

NHTSA told the Wall Street Journal that “publicly available records show no investigative action or safety recalls related to collapsed roof incidents involving 1999-2016 model year Super Duty trucks. The agency declined to comment on its previous decisions regarding roof crush requirements. NHTSA said that under the Biden administration, it got additional resources to work faster on a backlog of proposed auto safety rules.

In my practice, I see not only the harm that patients experience when seeking medical services, but also the harm that can be inflicted on them and their loved ones through motorcycle, car and truck accidents. . We are all one misstep from a curb, a red light blown by a distracted driver, or an inebriated trucker away from seeing our lives turned upside down by a vehicular nightmare. Too many of us, as my attorneys and I know, experience pain, suffering, injury, debilitation, and significant personal, professional, and financial chaos due to a motor vehicle accident.

Of course, conventional wisdom suggests that those involved in traffic accidents should work with law enforcement, exchange coverage information, and contact their insurer. In the event of serious incidents, it also makes sense to speak to an experienced lawyer – to protect your rights, including allowing your insurer to work for you and not in their own interest.

As manufacturers also advance technology in their products, it can be crucial to have knowledgeable legal counsel to help guide you through the possibility of hardware and software defects on vehicles and whether this affects your case. These types of problems are increasing for consumers and automakers due to the increasing complexity of vehicles, their manufacture and their contents, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, noting the difficulties of Ford, in particular, to address quality issues:

“Ford executives have worked for years to resolve costly quality and warranty issues with their vehicles, including making the effort a priority under current chief executive Jim Farley. The company has issued 49 recalls this year. , most of all automakers, according to data from[N HTSA]. “We continue to be hampered by recalls and customer satisfaction actions,” Farley said on an earnings call in July. “It affects our costs, but more importantly, it violates our most fundamental commitment to our customers.” It could not be determined whether the quality issues the company is trying to address have anything to do with the Georgia accident.

“Last year, Ford set aside more than $4 billion for warranty costs, up 76% from five years earlier. The automaker’s total warranty spend rose about $17 billion. % from 2016 to 2021. Earlier this year, Mr. Farley hired a new executive director of quality, Josh Halliburton.Before joining Ford, Mr. Halliburton spent 17 years at JD Power, an independent research company specializing in evaluating and studying the quality of vehicles.” We spend more time and effort making sure everything is done up front to prevent quality issues from showing up later in the development process “said Mr. Halliburton. He added that he expects to see Ford’s warranty issues improve next year, but that it could take two to three years to see results with the most d ‘impact.

We have a lot of work to do to improve the safety of our roads and our various means of transport, taking advantage of the advantages that technological advances can offer without seeing them cause preventable injuries or deaths as innovations are perfected to regular use.