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The parents of a teenager who died in the crash of a 1995 Ford Explorer Sport have won a $15 million verdict in their federal lawsuit against the automaker. A federal jury in Tulsa, Okla., returned the verdict against Ford Motor Co. Monday in a product liability lawsuit that claimed the vehicle’s roof was not strong enough. Tyler Moody, 18, was killed Jan. 7, 2003, when he lost control of the sport utility vehicle while he was passing another vehicle in a no passing zone on a curve, according to a Nov. 14 order by U.S. Chief District Judge Claire Eagan. The SUV left the road and rolled at least 1 1/2 times, coming to rest on its roof. Tulsa jeweler Kevin Moody and Veronica Moody alleged in their lawsuit, filed Nov. 18, 2003, that “because the defective vehicle had an inadequate roof-crush tolerance,” Tyler Moody was trapped within the Explorer “and his neck was pushed into his chest by the intruding roof at a precipitous angle.” He was in a position where his airway was impeded, causing his death, the lawsuit said. Testimony showed that Moody was wearing his seat belt. He suffered a 5-inch gash on his head. Plaintiffs attorney Clark Brewster told the jury Monday that the roof of the Explorer collapsed when the vehicle went through what he termed a relatively slow, easy roll. Brewster described the part that gave way during the wreck as being made of “spindly little pieces of metal engineered down to an unacceptable level to save money.” Ford attorney Mary Quinn Cooper said the vehicle exceeded federal standards. She said 98 percent of seat-belted SUV riders who are in rollover accidents are not seriously injured. She said there was no doubt that Moody was by all accounts “a great kid,” but on the day of the accident he made “bad decisions that had fatal consequences.” The plaintiffs’ accident reconstruction expert testified that Moody was traveling at about 67 mph through the curve, according to Eagan’s Nov. 14 order. The judge wrote that the posted speed limit on the road was 50 mph but that as vehicles entered the curve, another sign advised drivers of the curve and stated “30 mph.” The jury deliberated for about three hours Monday before delivering its verdict of actual or compensatory damages of $15 million. However, the panel did not find that Ford recklessly disregarded its duty to the public’s safety. Such a finding would have prompted a second stage of the trial involving punitive damages.

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