A jury awarded Georgia siblings $1.7 billion in punitive damages stemming from a 2014 car crash that killed their parents. This is the largest civil verdict ever awarded in the state. In 2014, Voncile and Melvin Hill died after their Ford F-250 blew a tire and rolled over. The jury ruled the couple should have survived the crash had the roof of their F-250 been properly designed. The roof instead collapsed under the impact of the roll and the pair later died of injuries.
The couple’s adult children Adam and Kim, both in their fifties, sued Ford and Pep Boys, the auto shop that fitted the vehicle’s tires four years before the crash. The juries initial award was $24 million in compensatory damages, of which Ford is liable for 70 percent ($16.8million) and Pep Boys is liable for 30 percent ($7.2milion). The jury also awarded $1.7 billion in punitive damages for the amount the jury deemed sufficient to punish Ford and deter it from making the same mistake in future.
‘Great verdict for our clients, we’re extremely happy for them. They’ve suffered through a lot – and had a tremendous amount of courage to stick it out for this long. ‘They wanted to make people aware of the problem,’ Daniel E. Philyaw, said one of the attorneys representing the Hill family. James Butler Jr, the attorney for the couple’s children, said he was stunned by evidence in the case which showed the roof of the vehicle collapsed under the pressure of the rollover. ‘I used to buy Ford trucks. I thought nobody would sell a truck with a roof this weak. The damn thing is useless in a wreck. You might as well drive a convertible.’
The families legal team believes more accidents were caused by the same flaw, and said the cars are not fit to be driven. ‘More deaths and severe injuries are certain because millions of these trucks are on the road,’ Butler´s co-counsel, Gerald Davidson, said in the statement. ‘An award of punitive damages to hopefully warn people riding around in the millions of those trucks Ford sold was the reason the Hill family insisted on a verdict,’ Butler said.
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