Woodstock, Georgia – Ford Motor Co. plans to appeal a $1.7 billion ruling against the automaker after a truck crash that killed a Georgia couple, a company representative said Sunday.
Attorney James Butler Jr. said Sunday that jurors in Gwinnett County, northeast Atlanta, returned the verdict late last week in a years-long civil case involving what plaintiffs’ lawyers described as seriously defective roofs for Ford trucks.
Melvin and Foncelle Hill were killed in April 2014 in the wreckage of their 2002 Ford F-250 rollover. Their sons, Kim and Adam Hill, were the plaintiffs in the wrongful death case.
“While we sympathize with the Hill family, we do not believe the verdict is supported by 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 was buying Ford trucks,” Butler said on Sunday. “I thought no one would sell a truck with a poor roof. The damn thing is useless in a wreck. You can also drive a convertible.”
In closing arguments, company-appointed attorneys defended the actions of Ford and its engineers.
The Michigan-based automaker sought to defend the company against accusations that “Ford and its engineers acted willfully and arbitrarily, with a conscious disregard for the safety of people who ride their vehicles when they made these roof strength decisions,” defense attorney William Withrow Jr. said in His closing arguments, according to the court transcript.
Another defense attorney, Paul Malik, said in the same closing argument that the allegation that Ford was irresponsible and knowingly made decisions that put customers at risk was “simply not the case.”
Butler’s law firm, Butler Brother LLP, said in a statement that plaintiffs’ attorneys provided evidence of nearly 80 debris similar to truck roof debris that injured or killed motorists.
“More deaths and serious injuries are certain to occur because millions of these trucks are on the road,” Butler’s assistant attorney, Gerald Davidson, said in the statement.
“It was the punitive damages award to warn people who ride millions of those Ford trucks that were the reason the Hill family insisted on a ruling,” Butler said.
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