Lawyers from Beasley Allen of Atlanta and Montgomery have won a $152 million verdict against Ford Motor Co. at trial in the Circuit Court of Dallas County, Alabama.
The jury deliberated about two hours following a two-week trial and delivered a verdict at about 10 p.m. Friday, according to attorneys representing plaintiff Travaris “Tre” Smith of Selma, Alabama. Smith was paralyzed after a rollover crash of a 1998 Ford Explorer.
It was a contentious trial in which Ford was accused of manipulating tests to hide a mechanical problem instead of correcting it.
The jury awarded $52 million for compensation and $100 million in punitive damages, finding Ford at fault for claims of design defect and negligence.
“Our sympathy goes out to Travaris Smith and his family,” a Ford spokeswoman said over the weekend. “At the same time, we disagree with the jury’s conclusion in this case as well as with a series of rulings by the Alabama court that kept the jury from hearing critical evidence—and will appeal.”
Ford’s legal team included D. Alan Thomas and Jennifer Egbe of Huie Fernambucq & Stewart in Birmingham, and Milton Davis of Tuskegee, Alabama.
Smith’s legal team included Beasley Allen lawyers LaBarron Boone, Greg Allen, Kendall Dunson, as well as Dan Philyaw of the firm’s Atlanta office. They tried the case with Bill Gamble of Gamble, Gamble, Calame and Jones in Selma.
“We represent a 24-year-old young man who cannot be left alone to care for himself in any way,” Dunson said in a news release from the firm over the weekend. “This verdict represents justice for Tre and his family. Thanks to a courageous jury he will now be able to access basic necessities within his home and have access to the care he needs.”
Smith was left unconscious with his spine snapped in a 2015 crash in which he was a passenger in the vehicle. The driver swerved to miss an animal crossing the road. The Explorer rolled over two times before landing on the shoulder of the road, right side up.
Smith’s lawyers alleged that the Explorer is prone to rolling over during accident-avoidance maneuvers.
“Tre had the misfortune of riding in a vehicle Ford knew could and did hurt him, but the jury’s verdict will allow him to reclaim some level of hope for a better future, with less dependence on others,” Boone said. “Ford failed Tre and so many other consumers. The jurors in Dallas County held Ford accountable for yet another tragedy in a decadeslong saga of the company’s efforts to cover up the shoddy design and its refusal to adequately address the problems.”
The case is Smith v. Ford Motor, 27-CV-2016-900273.00, in the Circuit Court of Dallas County, Alabama.