WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Ford Motor Co. plans to appeal a $1.7 billion judgment against the automaker following a pickup truck crash that claimed the lives of a couple in Georgia, a company representative said Sunday.
Jurors in Gwinnett County, just northeast of Atlanta, returned their verdicts late last week in the yearlong civil case involving what plaintiffs’ lawyers called dangerously defective roofs on Ford pickup trucks, attorney James Butler Jr. said. Sunday.
Melvin and Voncile Hill were killed in April 2014 in the rollover wreck of their 2002 Ford F-250. Their children Kim and Adam Hill were the plaintiffs in the wrongful death suit.
“While our sympathies go out to the Hill family, we do not believe the verdict is supported by the evidence and we plan to appeal,”[ads1]; Ford said in a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday.
Butler said he was stunned by evidence in the case.
“I used to buy Ford trucks,” Butler said Sunday. “I thought no one would sell a truck with such a weak roof. The damn thing is useless in a wreck. You might as well drive a convertible.”
In closing arguments, lawyers hired by the company defended the actions of Ford and its engineers.
The Michigan-based automaker sought to defend the company against allegations “that Ford and its engineers acted willfully and sensibly, with a deliberate indifference to the safety of the people who ride in their cars when they made these decisions about roof strength,” the defense attorney said. William Withrow Jr. said in his closing arguments, according to a court transcript.
The claim that Ford was irresponsible and intentionally made decisions that put customers at risk is “simply not the case,” another defense attorney, Paul Malek, said in the same closing argument.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs had presented evidence of nearly 80 similar wrecks that left truck roofs crushed that injured or killed motorists, Butler’s law firm, Butler Prather LLP, said in a statement.
“More deaths and serious injuries are certain because millions of these trucks are on the road,” Butler’s co-counsel, Gerald Davidson, said in the statement.
“An award of punitive damages to hopefully warn people driving around in the millions of these trucks Ford sold was why the Hill family insisted on a verdict,” Butler said.