A pair of Georgia siblings have been awarded $1.7billion in punitive damages from Ford for a 2014 car crash that killed their parents, the largest ever civil verdict to have been awarded in the state.
In 2014, Voncile and Melvin Hill died after their Ford F-250 blew a tire and rolled over. The couple - aged 62 and 74 - were on their way to pick up a new tractor part to be used on their farm in Georgia. A jury this week ruled that they should have survived the crash and would have had the roof of their F-250 been designed properly. Instead, it crunched under the impact of the roll and the pair later died of injuries.
The couple's adult children Adam and Kim, both in their fifties, sued Ford and Pep Boys, the auto shop that fitted the vehicle's tires four years before the crash.
They were first awarded $24million in compensatory damages, of which Ford is liable for 70 percent $16.8million) and Pep Boys, the autoshop, is liable for 30 percent ($7.2milion).
The jury then awarded the family $1.7billion in punitive damages, which are reflective not of compensation for the family but of the amount the jury feels is sufficient to punish Ford and deter it from making the same mistake in future.
Under Georgia law, the state is given 75 percent of the $1.7billion, leaving $425million for the Hill family to claim. In total, the family now stands to gain $450million from the car manufacturer.
Ford, which is worth $60billion, says it will appeal the decision.
'Great verdict for our clients, we’re extremely happy for them. They’ve suffered through a lot – and had a tremendous amount of courage to stick it out for this long.
'They wanted to make people aware of the problem,' Daniel E. Philyaw, one of the attorneys representing the Hill family, told DailyMail.com on Monday morning.
The roof of the couple's Ford F-250 truck that collapsed when they rolled their vehicle in 2014
This was the scene of the crash in Georgia in 2014. Lawyers for the couple's family said they 'might as well have been driving a convertible' because the roof crunched so easily
Melvin and Voncile Hill (shown with one of their grandkids) died in the 2014 wreck
Voncile and Melvin Hill, pictured on their wedding day in 1966. They died in 2014
'While our sympathies go out to the Hill family, we do not believe the verdict is supported by the evidence, and we plan to appeal,' Ford on Sunday.
James Butler Jr, the attorney for the couple's children, said he was stunned by evidence in the case which showed the roof of the vehicle collapsed under the pressure of the rollover.
'I used to buy Ford trucks. I thought nobody would sell a truck with a roof this weak. The damn thing is useless in a wreck. You might as well drive a convertible.'
He provided DailyMail.com with photos of the wreck which showed the roof of the vehicle completely collapsed.
Their legal team believes more accidents were caused by the same flaw, and said the cars are not fit to be driven.
'More deaths and severe injuries are certain because millions of these trucks are on the road,' Butler´s co-counsel, Gerald Davidson, said in the statement.
'An award of punitive damages to hopefully warn people riding around in the millions of those trucks Ford sold was the reason the Hill family insisted on a verdict,' Butler said.
In closing arguments, lawyers hired by the company defended the actions of Ford and its engineers.
The couple were driving a 2002 Ford F-250 (similar to the vehicle shown) when a tire blew and it rolled over