A whopping $1.7 billion jury verdict involving a deadly Ford rollover truck crash had led experts to question the roof strength on more than 5 million F-250, F-350 and F-450 trucks built from 1999 to 2016.
The lawsuit was filed by the children of Melvin and Voncile Hill, a couple from Georgia who were killed in a rollover crash on a rural road when a tire blew out on their 2002 Ford F-250 pickup truck.
On August 18, a jury in Georgia awarded the couple’s sons $24 million in compensatory damages. The next day, the jury added $1.7 billion in punitive damages, which are meant to add punishment to wrongdoers.
The jury was obviously convinced that Ford knew about the weak roof problem for decades and did nothing about it.
In fact, a pretrial order in the Hill case showed that Ford has been hit with at least 162 lawsuits and 83 similar rollover roof-crush accidents involving heavy-duty trucks from the 1999-2016 model years.
Many of those lawsuits ended in quiet out-of-court settlements, which helped Ford avoid negative publicity for the problem and massive jury verdicts — until now.
The Hill family’s lawyer said he used to buy Ford trucks. Not anymore.
“You might as well drive a convertible. … I thought nobody would sell a truck with a roof this weak. The damn thing is useless in a wreck.”
Ford said it plans to appeal the verdict, and claims that the roof met industry standards when it was designed and is still reasonably safe.
The Hill couple were driving a 2002 Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup truck with a gross weight of about 8,800 pounds. Graphic pictures from the accident show that when it rolled over, the roof collapsed and the entire passenger compartment flattened down to the hood.
At the time the trucks were built, the government only set roof crush standards for vehicles weighing less than 6,000 pounds.
Even though the Ford F-250 and above all weighed more than 6,000 pounds, Ford did not bother to make the roof any stronger until they were forced to in 2017, when auto regulators applied stiffer roof-strength standards to vehicles up to 10,000 pounds.