A California judge announced that Ford was nearing settlement of more than 400,000 rollover lawsuits involving its popular Explorer SUV. The suits allege that Ford knew about the safety hazard and withheld that information from the public, while marketing the cars as family-friendly and safe.
Passengers are more likely to be killed or suffer permanent and serious injuries, like being paralyzed, in rollover accidents than in almost any other type of car accident. Only head-on collisions kill more people.
In 2004, a jury awarded more than $80 million to a woman permanently paralyzed when the Ford Explorer she was driving rolled over after she swerved to avoid debris in the highway. The jury also awarded more than $200 million in punitive damages because it found that Ford knew about the problem but did not warn consumers. The trial judge later reduced the jury’s verdict to $150 million.
Although publicly Ford defends the safety of its SUVs, it has been negotiating quietly behind the scenes to put an end to the lawsuits. An announcement is expected later this month.