Julian Feilpe was awarded $6 million by a Broward Circuit Court jury after a six-week product liability trial. The 22 year-old suffered serious injuries after a 1993 Ford Aerostar van rolled over five years ago.
The jury found that Ford Motor Company, the only defendant, was negligent in putting the Aerostar on the market with a design defect of the roof structure, which caused the roof to collapse.
Felipe was in the front passengers seat with his mother driving when the back right tire blew out. The vehicle then rolled over and the roof caved in on the right side where Felipe was sitting, which broke his neck.
After the accident Felipe was temporarily paralyzed, and although he is now able to walk, he has a brace on his right leg and has to walk with a cane. Also, he suffered nerve damage in his right arm and cannot use his fingers on his right hand.
Ford argued that since the vehicle was nine years old and that is was purchased used the accident was not the Ford Motor Co.’s fault. The company asserted that the van met all the minimum federal motor vehicle safety standards and that the rollover was a “freak occurrence”.
But Felipe’s attorney maintained that Ford knew or should have known of the Aerostar’s safety defects.
Experts for the plaintiff testified that the roofs in Ford’s trucks and vans deformed at speeds as low as 5 miles per hour, crushing the passenger closest to the initial impact.
“The cost of fixing this problem is $25 per vehicle, but Ford figures that it is cheaper to litigate than to mitigate, because the percentage of injury isn’t large enough in their opinion, so they gamble with people’s lives and put them at risk. That’s just wrong,” contended Felipe’s attorney.
The jury awarded Felipe $6 million in compensatory damages, but rejected his request for punitive damages.
For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Defective and Dangerous Products.