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Old 08-20-2004, 08:46   #1 (permalink)
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US:Ford settles Florida rollover lawsuit

Ford settles Florida rollover lawsuit

Bloomberg News

Ford Motor Co. settled a rollover-death case involving its Explorer sport-utility vehicle as a Florida jury considered whether to award $48 million in punitive damages to the victim’s family.

A Fort Myers, Fla., federal jury awarded the victim’s family $5.3 million in compensatory damages Wednesday and was considering punitive damages when lawyers settled for an undisclosed amount, Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said. The family of Bob Miller, who was 57 when he died, filed the suit.

The decision was the second finding Ford responsible for an Explorer rollover accident. The vehicle was exonerated at least 13 times at trial until June, when a San Diego jury awarded $369 million to a woman injured in a wreck. The verdict won’t help other accident victims suing Ford because the Millers claimed a handling defect in the Explorer, said attorney Malcolm Wheeler.

“It shouldn’t have much of an effect on most of the cases coming to trial,” said Wheeler, who defends corporations in lawsuits and is not involved in Ford Explorer litigation. “The primary claims are that these are too prone to roll over, which is a stability issue, not a handling issue.”

Ford said it wasn’t responsible for the accident. “We appreciate the empathy the jury had for Mr. Miller’s family, but decisions should be based on evidence, not on empathy,” Vokes said. “In 13 prior trials, jurors have based their decisions on facts and real-world data and found the Explorer to be a safe vehicle.”

The settlement covers compensatory and punitive damages.

The family’s lawyer, Richard Denney told jurors the Explorer’s rear tires lose control of their direction because they bounce off of the ground. The bouncing is caused by a soft suspension system on a solid axle, he said.

Miller was on his way home from his roofing job and was wearing his seat belt and a hard hat when a tire lost its tread, his lawyers said. He lost control of the Explorer and it flipped over.
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