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Ford Pickup Truck Roof Collapse Leads to $1.7 Billion Punitive Damages Award 

Potential Danger in Millions of F-250s and F-150s Highlighted by Ford Pickup Truck Roof Collapse Verdict 

A trial court jury in Georgia recently awarded a major punitive damages verdict for the surviving family members of a couple killed in an accident. Their Ford F-250 pickup truck rolled over, and its roof was crushed. In addition to the substantial monetary award against Ford, the trial also included evidence submitted by the plaintiffs’ attorneys pointing toward design defect dangers in the roofs of several million older Ford F-250 and F-150 models still on the road and the potential for numerous additional Ford pickup truck roof collapse incidents.

The Tragic 2014 Accident and the Lawsuit that Resulted 

The jury trial in Georgia stemmed from a 2014 incident involving a a 72-year-old man and a 62-year-old woman in their Ford F-250 vehicle. A tire on the pickup blew out, and the car rolled, with its roof completely crushed, killing the occupants. The couple’s family sued the automotive service center that put load-rated tires improperly on the pickup (leading to the blowout) and sued Ford for allegedly using inadequately strong steel for manufacturing the pickup truck’s roof components.   

The family had settled with the automotive service center some years ago. However, the lawsuit against Ford continued on. It first came to trial in 2018, resulting in a mistrial after Ford presented evidence that the court had previously ordered the defendant not to present. It came up again for trial this year, and the $1.7 billion punitive damages award against Ford in August 2022 followed an earlier award of $24 million to the family for compensatory damages for wrongful death, the decedent’s pain and suffering, and funeral expenses. 

The Implications for Other Ford Pickup Truck Roof Incidents 

The plaintiff’s counsel at trial argued that Ford had known for years that the roof structure on the F-250 was weak and prone to collapse and that the company had been slow to correct the known defect — only doing so when customer complaints (and injuries and fatalities) mounted over the years. The roof structure is present in Ford F-250 pickups for model years 1999 through 2016. Evidence presented in this case indicates that more than 5 million F-250s from those model years are still on the road. 

Perhaps an even greater concern is that F-150 pickup trucks made prior to the model year 2009 — and the F-150 has been consistently the best-selling vehicle in the United States for decades — were manufactured with a similar roof structure design. 

Lawsuits Related to Ford Pickup Truck Roof Problems Expand 

Shortly after this major verdict in Georgia, a class-action lawsuit against Ford on behalf of owners of model year 1999 – 2016 “Super Duty” pickup trucks was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Among the allegations in the complaint in this class-action suit are that Ford had long been aware of the “defectively fragile” construction of the vehicles’ roof components and structure and that the company had actively worked to conceal the problems for several years, including by requiring secrecy and non-disclosure agreements in prior settlements. 

The lawsuit in this class-action case specifically refers to the recent trial in Georgia, in which evidence pointed to Ford engineers being aware of the roof problems and having designed a stronger roof as early as 2004 but not implementing a stronger design until the 2017 models. It also referred to more than 80 similar roof crush incidents that had previously led to more than 160 lawsuits. The class-action suit also highlighted evidence from prior litigation that Ford had not tested the F-250 roof before initial sales and that the F-250 roof not only didn’t meet Ford’s own design strength goals but that the F-250 roof was actually weaker than the roofs on some of Ford’s lighter-weight pickup trucks. 

Personal injury claims and lawsuits related to vehicle defect issues can be extraordinarily complicated and expensive cases to pursue and bring to a successful resolution. When seeking legal representation for such incidents, it is crucial to seek out law firms with the experience, skills, and resources to handle these challenging cases.

View this video from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showing methods for testing vehicle roof strengths — in this case for light pickup trucks:

Sacramento Auto Products Liability Attorney

Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I’m a Sacramento Auto Products Liability Attorney. Vehicle defect claims often prove that car, SUV, and pickup truck manufacturers are aware of severe defects long before publicly admitting them and seeking to perform recalls, repairs, or replacements. While the manufacturer delays remediation, tragic consequences can result for victims and their survivors. If you or a family member was seriously injured due to a vehicle defect such as a too easily crushed roof, please contact us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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