In Hill v. Ford, Georgia jury blamed Ford for crushed roof in a rollover crash of a 2002 Ford F-250.

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Ford Appeals $1.7 Billion Roof-Crush Verdict
In Hill v. Ford, Georgia jury blamed Ford for crushed roof in a rollover crash of a 2002 Ford F-250.

— The Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia will determine if Ford will be forced to pay $1.7 billion after a Georgia couple were killed in a violent rollover crash.

Various organizations have submitted amicus briefs in support of Ford, including the Georgia and United States Chambers of Commerce, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, Georgians for Lawsuit Reform and the American Tort Reform Association.

The $1.7 billion verdict came from a Georgia jury which blamed Ford for the deaths of 74-year-old Melvin Hill and his wife Voncile Hill, 62.

The 2014 fatal crash occurred when a tire blew out on the 2002 Ford F-250 after a Pep Boys service center installed the wrong tire on the truck.

The sons of the couple blamed the Ford truck roof for the deaths of their parents, arguing 1999-2016 Ford Super Duty trucks were sold with defective roofs.

The lawsuit alleged occupants were killed or injured in about 80 rollover crashes, out of more than 5 million manufactured trucks.

The government says roof-crush standards did not apply to the Hill's model year 2002 F-250 truck therefore there were no tests for the roofs.

Federal standards required stronger roofs in 2012, but Ford had until 2017 to meet the new stronger standards.

Ford told the jury the crash and fatalities occurred because the wrong tire was installed and because the occupants were not properly wearing their seat belts.

The tire blowout sent the Ford truck into a violent rollover, and Ford's experts testified the sudden blown tire caused the F-250 roof to slam into the ground three times while the truck was rolling up a hill.

However, the plaintiffs told the jury the crash and rollover weren't severe and the F-250 roof collapsed because Ford didn't care about safety.

The jury verdict put the majority of the blame on Ford, and lawyers for the plaintiffs sought $549 million in fees and another $528,684 in expenses for representing the family.

Ford appealed the $1.7 billion verdict and the organizations in support of Ford argue the "runaway verdict is the product of passion and prejudice arising from the inflammatory instructions the trial court gave the jury, telling them that they must accept as fact—though unproven—that Ford willfully inflicted harm on an unsuspecting public."

The appeal says the verdict must be reversed because under Georgia law, the "vast disparity between a punitive and compensatory damages—well over $1 billion here—confirms that this punitive-damages award is infected by bias."

According to Ford, the appeals court should enforce the constitutional limitations on punitive damages if the compensatory award is “substantial,” as in the roof-crush verdict.

In addition, the appeals court should allegedly not only overturn the award, but it should also make clear, "trial courts must perform an exacting constitutional gate-keeping function when ruling on punitive damages."

The Ford roof-crush lawsuit was filed in the State Court of Gwinnett County Georgia: Hill v. Ford Motor Company, case number 16-C-04179-S2.

The plaintiffs are represented by Butler Prather LLP, Mahaffey Pickens Tucker LLP, Walker, Hulbert, Gray & Moore, LLP, and Bondurant Mixson & Elmore.


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