Part IV: "Utter Indifference"
SUVs - Suddenly Upside-down Vehicles: Part IV: "Utter Indifference"
After her friend’s Bronco II rolled over, Pamela Ammerman was diagnosed with a crushed pelvis, closed head injuries, and was left permanently brain damaged. She currently has the mental capacity of a twelve or thirteen-year-old and requires a feeding tube. Lana Ammerman, her sister, suffered a broken thigh bone, and collapsed lung. She had to have extensive reconstructive surgeries. After the Ammermans filed suit against Ford, a jury awarded $4 million in compensatory damages and $58 million in punitive damages, the largest punitive damage award in Indiana history. The punitive damages were reduced by the trial judge to $13.8 million, which was upheld by Indiana’s highest appellate court. The Indiana Court of Appeals declared that Ford’s conduct in 1) canceling tests for its drivers for the Bronco II; and 2) potentially destroying discovery documents was "highly reprehensible." The court stated that Ford’s insistence to push for the production of the Bronco II even though it knew it would roll over demonstrated "the crassest form of corporate indifference to safety . . . of the consumer" and it showed "an utter indifference for the rights of consumers." The Indiana Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Ford's appeals of the Ammerman decision.
In Ohio, in 2001, a probate judge found probable cause that Ford lawyers may have committed "fraud upon the court" in a case involving a two-year-old boy who was injured in a Bronco II rollover. Ford apparently did not submit a medical report, which indicated that the victim might have a traumatic brain injury, to the court-appointed referee who was responsible for evaluating the settlement. Furthermore, Ford attorneys represented to the Referee that the settlement was for $10,000, but in fact, Ford secretly paid the victim’s parents an additional $24,000. Without this key medical report that indicated the child could be brain damaged, Ford was able to quickly and secretly settle the case. Based in part on this judge’s finding of probable cause, a civil fraud case and decision on the merits is pending in Ohio State Court. A decision is expected any day. The victim now suffers from a traumatic brain injury.
On February 14, 2003, a federal judge in Illinois sanctioned Ford's attorneys for the willful concealment of evidence in a 15 passenger van rollover case. Ford misrepresented to the court that Ford did not have any van rollover testing data, which could have assisted the victims in the prosecution of their case. Ford was caught in another lie when a Ford engineer testified that Ford vans did not roll over. Just a few weeks before the trial date, a former Ford test driver came forward and testified that he rolled over the van model during a Ford safety test. The test driver also declared that the same Ford representative who swore under oath that Ford vans did not roll over was present when the test driver rolled over the van. The judge sanctioned Ford's attorneys and declared that:
. . . I don't want to believe that lawyers would come and risk their licenses and livelihoods and professional reputations by making false statements to a court, but that's what is happening. Whether they're being set up by their client to do it, you know, it's a big company, and maybe they can do that sort of thing and hope they get away with it.
He also stated that Ford's behavior "almost borders on criminal to be honest with you. Somebody is lying here. Somebody is committing perjury it appears to me or at least may be committing perjury." The judge stated that he would consider instructing the jury that Ford was liable for the accident and the only question for the jury would be the issue of damages. Just like in the Goff case, Ford settled the case right after this ruling came down from the judge. The amount of the settlement is secret.