Ford Motor Co. on Monday was ordered by a jury to pay the family of a 16-year-old girl $US30.4 million to compensate for a fatal 2004 rollover crash in which a pickup truck's roof collapsed, the Detroit News reported.

Lawyers for Jessica Garcia had argued that the F-150's roof crushed, and the girl was ejected when her seat belt failed to keep her inside the vehicle when the pickup rolled over. They reportedly said Ford's design wasn't safe.

"Ford should treat its customers like prized possessions; instead, it treats them like lab rats," Mikal Watts, the Garcia family lawyer, was quoted as saying.

The Detroit News noted that the verdict followed a similar case decided last month - also argued by Watts -where another Texas jury awarded a family $42 million following the death of a 10-year-old boy killed in an Expedition SUV.

The jury in the latest case awarded the family $20.4 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages, the paper added.

Ford told the Detroit News it would appeal the verdict. The company argued that the evidence showed Garcia was not wearing a seat belt, and the crash was caused by a negligent driver striking her vehicle at highway speeds.

Legal observers reportedly said that juries are questioning whether automakers have done enough to make top-heavy trucks and SUVs safer in crashes.