A US jury reportedly has ordered Ford to pay more than US$61 million to the family of a 17-year-old boy killed in a roll-over accident when his friend feel asleep while driving an Explorer.
Ford was liable in the accident because it sold a vehicle with poor handling and stability, the jury said, according to The Associated Press (AP).
The company planned to appeal, a spokeswoman told the news agency.
The family of Lance Crossman Hall reportedly claimed Ford knew the Explorer was prone to roll-overs and failed to warn consumers about the vehicle’s defects.
Ford blamed defective Firestone tyres for the Explorer’s handling and stability problems, and the company knowingly continued to produce unsafe vehicles, Bruce Kaster, a lawyer for the family, told The Associated Press.
“This tragic accident occurred when the driver of the vehicle fell asleep at the wheel while travelling at highway speeds. Real-world experience and testing show that the Explorer is a safe vehicle, consistently performing as well as or better than other vehicles in its class,” Ford spokeswoman Karen Shaughnessy told AP.
The report said Hall was reclining in the front passenger seat and wearing his seat belt when the Explorer rolled over four times on on April 20, 1997. He was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. The driver of the 1996 Explorer, Melahn Parker, was charged with careless driving.
Kaster told The Associated Press that Parker attempted to regain control of the vehicle, but a handling problem with the Explorer caused it to turn sideways, which triggered the roll-over.
“Ford vehicles are supposed to be designed to slide out in an emergency situation, not roll over, and that’s according to Ford’s own internal criteria,” Kaster reportedly said. “But the Explorer is one of their vehicles that will not meet their own criteria. It will roll over.”
The jury ordered Ford to pay the family $1.2 million in damages, and $60 million for the pain and suffering of Hall and his mother, Joan Hall-Edwards, but the car maker was not ordered to pay punitive damages, The Associated Press said.