Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jury orders Ford to pay $3 million to Poca couple

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jury orders Ford to pay $3 million to Poca couple

ByJared Hunt, Business editor

COURTESY PHOTO A runaway vehicle crash caused by a defective accelerator in a 2001 Ford Ranger, similar to the make illustrated, led to a more than $3 million damage award for a Poca man and his wife.

A Poca man and his wife are set to receive more than $3 million from the Ford Motor Company after a federal jury ruled last week the company was responsible for a defective accelerator assembly that caused a 2012 runaway vehicle crash.

Following a two-day trial in Huntington, the federal court jury awarded Howard and Nancy Nease $3.012 million in compensatory damages stemming from the crash.

The Neases claimed the design of the accelerator assembly on their 2001 Ford Ranger was defective, which made the gas pedal prone to sticking, which caused a crash that seriously injured Howard.

According to their complaint, on Nov. 12, 2012, Howard Nease was driving westbound on U.S. 60 in St. Albans at a speed of about 45 to 50 mph when he took his foot off the gas pedal in an attempt to slow down as he drove up behind a slower moving group of cars. However, the truck kept moving forward at the same speed and, despite hitting the brakes as hard as he could, he soon realized he was unable to slow down.

Nease then swerved off the road to avoid hitting the cars in front of him. The truck jumped a curb, flew into a mulched area, then jumped another curb before striking the brick wall of a wash bay at Mousie’s Car Wash. The truck kept moving through the wash bay before hitting the wall of a brick building adjacent to the car wash.

According to the complaint, witnesses said the truck hit the wall with so much force that its rear end rose high enough off the ground for them to see its undercarriage. One witness told an investigating officer the Ranger’s back wheels continued to spin at full speed for about 25 to 30 seconds after hitting the wall, causing smoke to rise up from the tires.

Howard Nease, who was wearing his seat belt, had to be hospitalized for nearly three months to treat injuries he sustained in the crash.

The Neases were represented by Edgar “Hike” Heiskell III, who specializes in unintended acceleration cases, Lee Javins of Bucci Bailey & Javins and Tony O’Dell of Tiano O’Dell LLC in the case.

O’Dell said Ford knew that their speed control cable in the accelerator assembly for the truck could become bound by dirt, grime or grease, or get frayed or pinched by other parts.

“Not only did they recognize this could happen, but in their engineering handbook it said that it had a 10 out of 10 hazard rating,” O’Dell said. “Their handbook said if you had a nine or a 10 — this is a 10 again — that you needed to redesign it.”

Ford argued at trial that Nease, who is now 74, was old and mistakenly hit the accelerator instead of the brake. O’Dell said the jury didn’t buy that argument.


“The jury sent a strong message to Ford Motor Company that we’re going to pay attention to safety laws here in West Virginia,” he said.

While the particular accelerator assembly is no longer used in new Ford vehicles, O’Dell said there are still several older model Ford vehicles on the road that have this same defect.

“Ford really needs to warn people that are driving all of these cars that this has happened, and they either need to replace the speed control cable or have people make sure there’s not any dirt getting in it,” O’Dell said.

A representative from Ford did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

The jury awarded Howard Nease $2,762,828.35, including $762,828.35 for medical expenses and the rest as compensation for future medical care and compensation for permanent injury and pain and suffering. His wife Nancy received $250,000 for “loss of her husband’s consortium” as a result of the crash.