AL Woman Awarded $8.5 Million in SUV Rollover Lawsuit

Latoya Duckett of Gadsden, AL, was award an $8.5 million judgment by at Etowah County Circuit Jury in an SUV product liability case last week. The verdict was the largest in Etowah County history.

The month-long trial, which began September 14, revolved around a 2005 lawsuit against Ford Motor Company over a rollover accident that occurred in 2003 near Douglasville, GA, west of Atlanta. Duckett, 28, was a passenger in a Mercury Mountaineer that rolled over. Her left arm was paralyzed and her right leg was amputated following the accident. Duckett also suffered some brain damage.

The lawsuit claimed that the Mercury Mountaineer was unstable and rolled over too easily. Before the accident, the Mercury Mountaineer had suddenly swerved to the left to avoid another vehicle. The Mountaineer lost control and rolled over four and a half times, coming to a rest upside-down. The accident killed two people and injured two others, including Duckett.

Attorneys for the plaintiff argued that Ford Motor Co. caused the accident because they negligently designed, manufactured, produced, and distributed the vehicle. The Mountaineer was defective, dangerous and lacked sufficient stability to prevent it from rolling over, said the trial team. They also argued that Ford Motor Co. was aware of this defect but did not correct it or issue a recall.

"Ford Motor Company took a calculated risk by manufacturing defective vehicles," said attorney Willie Gary. "As a result of their negligence, our client suffered loss of her right leg. No amount of money will ever be able to replace her leg or her quality of life.”

“We hope that this verdict will send a message to all manufacturers to cure or recall vehicles with known defects that can destroy the life and health of our citizens,” said attorney Jason Knowles.

Writing on injuryboard.com, attorney Mark Bello replied to comments which stated that large awards such as this one are “killing business” and that the accident victim was “looking for a hand out or welfare”:

The verdict was returned based on the horror of the accident and her mental state following it, her catastrophic, disfiguring injuries, her age and life expectancy living with a disability and disfigurement, the severe pain she suffered and continues to suffer, her hospitalization, painful medical treatment, her past and future medical expenses, orthopedic appliances, modifications that she must make to her lifestyle, her residence, her vehicles, accommodations that must be made by her friends and family. Her life is forever altered by this accident. Maybe, some of the money was paid to "punish" the guilty to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Is that a bad thing?

One thing I am certain of, Latoya Duckett didn't ask for this to happen, she is not happy that it happened, and this is, in no way shape or form "a hand out or welfare." Compensation for being maimed and disabled for life is not a "hand out"; it is not "welfare," and you owe this unfortunate lady an apology. All of us are just one brief, unfortunate, moment away from being a serious accident victim. If you were as severely injured as Latoya Duckett and could prove who was responsible in court, how much would the destruction of your good health be worth? Walk a mile on her one leg; lift your groceries or your infant son or daughter with only one good arm. Ponder that, answer that, and then pass judgment on the justice received in her case.

I have to agree with Mark Bello. Product liability lawsuits play an important role in our society - namely, they save lives by providing incentives for manufacturers to produce safe products.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident, contact an experienced Atlanta, Georgia auto accident attorney as soon as possible. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.