Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, must pay $6.5 million to a 41-year-old man left brain-damaged in a 2004 rollover accident involving an Explorer sport-utility vehicle, a Texas jury said.
Ruben Zamora lost control of the 1993 Explorer when a tire lost its tread and was ejected from the vehicle as it rolled over.
His mother, suing on his behalf, said the tread separation set off vibrations in the rear of the vehicle that made it skate sideways because of a defect in the SUV's suspension.
"The tires get to bouncing severely and the back end swings around," causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle, Zamora's attorney, Bill Neumann, said Monday in a phone interview.
"They've known about the problem for years and failed to fix it."
A state court jury in Cotulla, Texas, found the Explorer defective and awarded $10 million on Feb. 1.
The jury found that Zamora was 35 percent responsible for the accident, leaving a verdict of $6.5 million against Ford, Neumann said.
Ford will appeal, a Ford spokeswoman, Marcey Evans, said Monday in a phone interview.
"It is unfair to blame Ford for this tragic accident or for Mr. Zamora's injuries, which were caused by not being belted properly while losing control of his vehicle," Evans said.
"We think the verdict isn't supported by the evidence," Evans said.
The verdict will be further reduced "substantially" because of a prior settlement with a co-defendant, Evans said.
Lifetime care needed for victim
Zamora, a disabled oil field worker before the accident, was injured in August 2004 while driving in south Texas, near San Antonio. Zamora, who sustained severe brain damage, "will need someone to take care of him for the rest of his life," Neumann said.