WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. plans to appeal a $1.7 billion verdict against the automaker after a pickup truck crash that killed a Georgia couple, a company spokesman said Sunday.
A jury in Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, returned a verdict late last week in a years-long civil case involving what plaintiffs’ lawyers called dangerous roof defects on Ford pickup trucks, attorney James Butler Jr. said Sunday.
Melvin and Voncil Hill were killed in April 2014 when their 2002 Ford F-250 rolled over. Their children, Kim and Adam Hill, were the plaintiffs in the wrongful death suit.
“While we sympathize with the Hill family, we do not believe the conviction is supported by the evidence, and we plan to appeal,” Ford said in a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday.
Butler said he was stunned by the 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 cursed thing is useless in the wreckage. You can also drive a convertible.’
In closing arguments, lawyers hired by the company defended the actions of Ford and its engineers.
The Michigan automaker sought to defend the company against allegations that “Ford and its engineers acted willfully and recklessly, with a conscious indifference to the safety of the occupants of their vehicles when they made these roof strength decisions,” the attorney said. William Withrow the younger said in his closing speechaccording to the court report.
The allegation that Ford was irresponsible and intentionally made decisions that put clients at risk “is simply not true,” another attorney, Paul Malek, said in the same closing statement.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs presented evidence of nearly 80 similar accidents in which the roofs of trucks were blown off, injuring or killing motorists, Butler’s law firm, Butler Prather LLP, said in a statement.
“More deaths and serious injuries are likely because millions of these trucks are on the road,” Butler’s co-attorney Gerald Davidson said in a statement.
“The Hill family pushed for the verdict,” Butler said, “hopefully the fine will serve as a warning to the people who drive the millions of Ford trucks sold.
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