Posted on Mar 23, 2007
Unprecedented $15M jury award thrown out; new trial for Ford
The Associated PressPublished: March 22, 2007
TULSA, Oklahoma: A U.S. federal judge threw out a $15 million (€11.2 million) jury verdict and ordered a new trial in a lawsuit against Ford by a couple whose son died in a rollover crash in November 2003.
U.S. Chief District Judge Claire Eagan said Ford Motor Co. showed in post-trial motions that "it was prejudiced by plaintiffs' counsel's conduct, and the jury's unprecedented verdict for noneconomic damages supports this conclusion."
"Based on the cumulative error in this case and the size of the jury's verdict, the court has no doubt that the proper remedy is to order a new trial," she ruled Tuesday.
Kevin Moody and Veronica Moody of Tulsa filed the lawsuit Nov. 18, 2003, about 10 months after their 18-year-old son, Tyler Moody, died in a rollover crash in Tulsa. A jury found in their favor in November, last year.
The lawsuit said the Explorer's roof had "an inadequate roof-crush tolerance," and that Tyler Moody became trapped in the vehicle with the roof pushing his neck into his chest.
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The plaintiffs' attorney, Clark Brewster, said that the basis for the judge ordering a new trial involved matters "that — for the most part — were completely unobjected to at trial."
Ford attorney Mary Quinn Cooper praised the judge's decision.
"We're looking forward to retrying the case on a level playing field," she said.
The judge set a July 16 trial date.
"We're confident that when a jury hears the relevant facts, free from the shadow of abuse cast over the first trial, they will conclude that Ford was not responsible for this tragic accident," Ford said in a written statement Wednesday.
Moody lost control of a 1995 Ford Explorer Sport while he was passing another vehicle in a no-passing zone on a curve, according to court records. The sport utility vehicle left the road and rolled at least 1 1/2 times, coming to rest on its roof.
Brewster told the jury that the Explorer's roof collapsed when the vehicle went through what he termed a relatively slow, easy roll.
In his closing argument, Brewster said the part that gave way was made of "spindly little pieces of metal engineered down to an unacceptable level to save money."
Ford contends the vehicle exceeded federal standards.
Moody was speeding through the curve, but Brewster argued at the trial that Moody's speed was irrelevant to the issue of whether the SUV's roof was defective.