Ford faces $1.7 billion verdict over fatal F-250 pickup truck rollover

Ford Motor Co.

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is facing a potential $1.7 billion in punitive damages after a Georgia jury reached a verdict Friday in a case involving a 2014 Ford F-250 pickup truck rollover that killed two people.

A Gwinnett County jury decided damages should be awarded to Ford for selling 5.2 million Super Duty trucks in what plaintiffs’ lawyers said dangerously weak roofs that could crush occupants in a rollover accident, according to James Butler, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case.

The lawsuit was filed by the family of a Georgia couple, Melvin and Voncil Hill, who were driving a 2002 Ford F-250 Super Duty truck from their farm when the right front tire blew out and the truck overturned, Mr. Butler said. Hills were crushed in the truck, he added.

Ford CEO Jim Farley said last month that the company continues to be hampered by recalls and customer satisfaction actions.


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“While we sympathize with the Hill family, we do not believe the verdict is supported by the evidence and plan to appeal,” a Ford spokesman said Saturday.

The $1.7 billion verdict is believed to be one of the largest in Georgia history and is unusually large for an accident lawsuit involving an automaker. Damages in these types of cases typically run into the millions of dollars, and many are settled out of court. Often expensive sentences are later reduced by judges or appeals courts.

“The Hill family are delighted that this part of the case is finally over,” Mr Butler said. “They intend to hold out and make Ford pay.”

On Thursday, a Georgia jury awarded plaintiffs Kim and Adam Hill, the children of the couple who died in the crash, $24 million in damages, Mr. Butler said. The jury assigned 70 percent of the blame in the case to Ford, Mr. Butler said.

Ford executives have been working for years to address costly quality and warranty problems with their vehicles, including making the effort a priority under current CEO Jim Farley. The company has issued 49 recalls this year, the most of any automaker, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“We continue to be hampered by recalls and customer satisfaction actions,” Mr. Farley said on an earnings call in July. “This affects our costs, but more importantly, it does not meet our most fundamental commitment to our customers.”

Last year, Ford set aside more than $4 billion in warranty costs, up 76 percent from five years earlier. The car company’s total warranty costs increased by about 17% from 2016 to 2021.

Earlier this year, Mr Farley appointed a new chief quality officer, Josh Halliburton. Before coming to Ford, Mr. Halliburton spent 17 years at JD Power, an independent research firm specializing in the evaluation and study of vehicle quality.

“We put in more time and emphasis on making sure everything is done right early on to prevent quality issues from showing up later in the development process,” Mr Halliburton said.

He added that he expects Ford’s warranty issues to improve next year, but it may take two to three years to see the most impactful results.

Write to Nora Eckert c [email protected]

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