Ford Motor Co. was cleared Tuesday by a California jury of liability for injuries to a man paralyzed from the neck down in a 2000 rollover accident.
De'Wayne Cory was wearing his seat belt when his head hit the roof of a 1985 LTD as it caved in, his attorney, Michael Piuze, said before the trial. Cory claimed that Ford knew the roof wouldn't protect occupants in rollovers. The jury in San Bernardino found no defect in the roof and blamed the accident on Cory's sister, who was driving.
"Ford believes that driver error rather than a product defect caused these injuries," Kathleen Vokes, a spokeswoman for Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford, said by e-mail before the verdict. "The police report states that the accident was caused when the driver fell asleep while traveling 65 miles per hour."
The lawsuit is one of several crushed-roof cases against automakers being tried this year. Three of the five largest verdicts in U.S. history against carmakers came in such cases, according to Bloomberg News data.
The California jury found that Cory's sister, Corrinnea Ann Cory, whom he also had sued, was 100% liable for the accident and ordered her to pay more than $20 million. Piuze didn't return calls for comment after the verdict.
Cory, 35, claimed that Ford had lobbied the federal government to accept a lesser standard for roof strength in 1971. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is preparing new standards to replace the 34-year-old rules.
About 10,000 Americans die each year in rollover crashes, and consumer groups are promoting stricter standards.
Ford shares rose 6 cents to $11.17.