A Montgomery jury has ordered Ford Motor Co. to pay $2.75 million to the estate of a woman who was killed July 2007 when her 1999 Ford Explorer rolled over during a crash.
The jury returned the judgment Friday after several hours of deliberation.
Beasley Allen attorneys J. Greg Allen, Benjamin E. Baker and J. Cole Portis contended during the three-week Montgomery County Circuit Court trial that Ford’s decision to save money on the vehicle’s roof even though the company knew the roof was weak ultimately cost Catherine Parker her life.
The attorneys contended that when the vehicle rolled during the crash its roof shifted, causing Parker’s death when her head hit the pavement.
Although Allen said the vehicle’s roof met minimum standards for the time, he said Ford knew the roof should have been stronger.
“The interesting thing is that for this whole line of vehicles, they ran only two tests on the roof,” Allen said. “The first one failed and the second one barely passed.
“They had initially called the first test a certification test, and it was labeled a certification test, but when it failed, they changed what they had called it to a prototype test so that they wouldn’t have to report it.”
Allen said he believed the fact that Ford had only conducted two tests and had changed how the failed one was labeled, played a major part in the size of the judgment.
He said the federal government now recognizes that it should have required the roofs to be much stronger and that the government has given the manufacturers until 2012 to double the strength levels of the roofs.
But D. Alan Thomas, the Birmingham attorney who helped defend Ford in the suit, said Ford had done nothing wrong and that the vehicle was safe.
“We are disappointed in the verdict,” he said. “There will be an appeal.
“The Explorer has a great overall safety record that has been demonstrated by real-world performance.”
Beasley Allen has at least two other cases involving the Ford Explorer, including one coming up in about a month in Barbour County.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William Shashy presided at the trial.