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Jury Awards $131 Million for Fatal 2001 Rollover of Ford Explorer

By Jim Greene

on October 14, 2010

A Mississippi jury returned a $131 million verdict against Ford Motor Co. in a wrongful death lawsuit by the family of a man killed in a 2001 rollover of a Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle. The victim’s cousin, who survived the rollover, was awarded $1.5 million.

After the verdict in Jasper County Circuit Court, the parties negotiated a settlement for an undisclosed amount.

The auto accident lawsuit was brought by the family of Brian Cole, who died in his Explorer Scout, a two-door version of the Explorer. Cole was speeding and not wearing a seat belt when the vehicle rolled over and ejected him. He was a pitching prospect for the New York Mets.

Original Design Was Based on Pickup Truck

Cole was killed in a first-generation Ford Explorer, based on a pickup truck chassis design, which gave the vehicle a high center of gravity and a solid rear axle, making it more prone to roll over than SUVs with a lower center of gravity and independent rear suspension. The Scout that Cole drove was also ten inches shorter than the four-door model, adding further instability.

Ford sold more than 4 million Explorers before redesigning them for improved stability in 2002, giving them a wider wheelbase, as well as a lower center of gravity and independent rear suspension.

Ford Has Never Admitted to Unstable Design

Through millions of dollars of lawsuits, Ford never admitted that its SUV was any more prone to rollovers than any other SUV. In 2000 and 2001, the company conducted an expensive recall of the original equipment Firestone tires, blaming them for the rollovers. The rollover rate for pre-2002 models remained the same after switching tires.

For 2011, Ford has abandoned the Explorer as an SUV and replaced it with a crossover vehicle of the same name. The new model is based on the undercarriage of a Volvo sedan, considered among the safest cars in the world.

If you or someone you know was injured or killed in Ford Explorer rollover, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. You may be eligible for financial compensation for medical bills, loss of income, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship. In spite of the company’s denials, Ford’s 2002 redesign of the Explorer makes in pretty clear that the company was aware that the older models were potentially dangerous. Ford should be accountable for cashing in on the popularity of SUVs by rushing to market an inferior, unsafe design.

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