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Siblings Win $1.7 Billion After Suing Ford Over Defective Roof That Caused Death of Their Parents

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Ford Motor Company has been hit with a $1.7 billion punitive damage verdict over a defective pickup truck crash that killed two parents.

Two Georgia siblings are suing Ford after their parents, Melvin and Voncile Hill, aged 72 and 64, were killed in April 2014 when their 2002 Ford F-250 blew a tire and rolled over. The couple ended up dying from the injuries sustained in the accident.

The jury accepted the plaintiff’s arguments that Ford knew of the problem years before the crash and was slow to make corrective attempts. They noted that other deaths have resulted from the same design flaw. The plaintiffs’ attorney claimed that Ford’s engineers had already designed a safer roof, but the automaker did not move immediately to install it on the trucks.

Following this, the jury ruled that the couple would have survived the crash if the defective roof of the pickup truck had been corrected. Photos submitted as evidence from the crash scene also show the truck’s flattened roof. The doors, windows, and side view mirror were also destroyed.

Other evidence presented in the suit also showed that the F-250 pickups made in all model years before 2017 were risky to drivers and passengers in cases of a rollover. The couple’s adult children, Kim and Adam Hill, both in their fifties, sued Ford in 2018. They claimed that the Ford F-250 roof was “dangerously defective” and caused their parents’ deaths.

Jim Butler Jr., the siblings’ attorney, added that 5.2 million trucks had been built with the same faulty roof and similar design. The F-150 has been the best-selling US vehicle of any type for more than 40 years. He added, “There are many millions of F-150s on the road with this roof. I don’t know how many. They wouldn’t answer that at trial.”

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In court filings, the family’s legal team cited 79 other rollover crashes that involved a similar roof flaw. Butler also claimed, “Long before the Hills were killed, Ford was on notice from their own engineers, own crash tests and dozens of accidents that people were being killed, and it did nothing.” The siblings also sued Pep Boys, the auto shop that fitted the tires on the truck four years before the deadly crash.

Initially, a jury had earlier awarded the family $24 million in compensatory damages. Of that amount, Ford is liable for 70%, which added up to $16.8 million, and Pep Boys for the remaining 30%, which amounted to $7.2 million. The $1.7 billion in additional damages was awarded by a jury on Friday.

However, they will only be able to claim $425 million of that cash. The state will receive the other 75% of the fee per Georgia law. However, Ford plans to appeal the court’s verdict. The company said, “While our sympathies go out to the Hill family, we don’t believe the verdict is supported by the Evidence, and we plan to appeal. In the meantime, we aren’t going to litigate this matter through the news media.”