Ford Faces $1.7 Billion Verdict in Fatal Rollover of F-250 Pickup

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It is facing a potential $1.7 billion in punitive damages after a Georgia jury ruled Friday in a case related to the 2014 rollover of a Ford F-250 pickup truck that killed two people.

According to James Butler, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, a Gwinnett County jury determined that Ford should be indemnified for selling 5.2 million Super Duty trucks, which the plaintiffs’ lawyers said had dangerously weak roofs that allowed passengers to escape. Could have been crushed in a rollover accident. Case.

Mr Butler said the case was brought up by the family of a Georgia couple, Melvin and Wonsail Hill, who were driving a 2002 Ford F-250 Super Duty truck from their farm when the right front tire burst and the truck overturned. He said Hills was crushed inside the truck.

Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley said last month that the company was hampered by recalls and customer-satisfaction actions.


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

The $1.7 billion judgment is believed to be the largest in Georgia history and unusually large for an accident-related lawsuit involving an auto maker. Typically, damages in these types of cases run into the millions of dollars, and many are settled out of court. Often, high-dollar decisions are later reduced by judges or appeals courts.

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

On Thursday, a Georgia jury awarded $24 million in compensation to plaintiffs Kim and Adam Hill, the children of the couple killed in the crash, Mr Butler said. The jury allocated 70% of the fault in the case to Ford, Mr Butler said.

Ford executives have worked to deal with costly quality and warranty problems with their vehicles over the years, including prioritizing this effort under the current chief executive, Jim Farley. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the company has issued 49 recalls this year, the most of any auto maker.

“We continue to be hampered by recalls and customer-satisfaction actions,” Mr. Farley said on the July earnings call. “This affects our cost but more importantly, it falls short of our most fundamental commitment to our customers.”

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

Earlier this year, Mr. Farley brought on a new Executive Director of Quality, Josh Halliburton. Before joining Ford, Mr. Halliburton spent 17 years at JD Power, an independent research firm that specializes in vehicle quality assessment and study.

“We are putting more time and emphasis on making sure everything is fixed to prevent quality issues from appearing later in the development process,” said Mr Halliburton.

He said he expects Ford’s warranty problems to improve next year, but it could take two to three years to see the most impactful results.

write to Nora Eckert nora.eckert@wsj.com . Feather

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