Feb. 18 (UPI) -- An Alabama jury has awarded nearly $152 million to a man who was paralyzed four years ago in a crash jurors said was the result of a defective vehicle design.
Travaris Smith, 24, of Selma, Ala., was a passenger in the 1998 Ford Explorer in 2015 when the driver swerved to avoid an animal in the road. Instead of sliding on its tires, the vehicle rolled over twice, breaking Smith's spine.
The jury ruled Smith's injuries were caused by a design defect, and that Ford failed to meet its safety guidelines and attempted to conceal the defect.
Smith's attorneys said Ford engineers advised changes in design, but the company instead changed the testing process while destroying records from original testing.
"We have seen bad conduct before but the egregiousness of Ford's scheme to mislead the jury was stunning," attorney LaBarron Boone said. "Ford claimed the ADAMS data that would have proved the safety of this vehicle was destroyed because it had no scientific value and was too expensive to maintain.
"We provided proof that something as basic as a $100 thumb drive could have easily preserved the data."
The Dallas County jury awarded Smith $51.8 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages. The decision was announced Saturday.
"Ford should have spent money redesigning this dangerous SUV model rather than paying huge amounts to defend the cases," said Greg Allen, another of Smith's lawyers. "One expert has been paid over $75 million over the last 16 years to defend Ford in accidents like Mr. Smith's."
The 1998 Explorer was involved in two safety recalls due to its design.