A judge this week certified what’s believed the largest-ever Grant County jury trial award of damages in a case stemming from a fatal car crash that happened almost eight years ago.
Judge Jeffrey D. Todd this week certified a jury’s $6.1 million verdict against the estate of Karen L. Roush and in favor of two brothers who were injured as teens in a car her vehicle struck.
Taylor and Kolby O’Banion of Marion were at an intersection when a car driven by Roush crossed the center line at a high rate of speed, struck their car, left the road and struck a light pole before coming to a stop. Roush was killed in the crash.
Litigation combined in the case included a product-liability claim filed by Roush’s estate against Ford, alleging the accelerator stuck on her 2005 Mercury Monterey van that was involved in the crash.
A six-person jury assigned 100 percent of fault to Roush, though, awarding $3.1 million to Kolby O’Banion and $3 million to Taylor O’Banion. The jury also awarded costs to the O’Banions and Ford as prevailing parties.
Plaintiff’s attorney Todd Glickfield of Marion said the family had been “going through hell” as Roush’s insurer, Farm Bureau Insurance, refused to offer settlement outside a range of $200,000-$600,000. “In all honesty, it was an exercise in frustration,” he said.
Glickfield said the brothers, now 24 and 26, were left with permanent facial scarring and suffered numerous and lingering physical and psychological trauma as the family struggled to pay medical bills that exceeded $300,000 resulting from the crash.
Josef Musser of Spitzer Herriman Stephenson Holderead in Marion, who represented Farm Bureau, did not immediately respond to a message left Friday.
“They started on this odyssey to try to have Ford Motor Co. found at fault almost immediately after the accident,” Glickfield said. He said Roush had been covered by a policy with limits above $2 million. “I think they felt like they could stall this case out,” he said.
The jury, Glickfield said, “saw through the product liability claim and pretty much realized what happened to this family, and that’s why we got the number we got. … Is there bad faith by the insurance company? All those issues now have to be answered.”
He said he believes the jury sent a message that they didn’t believe the product liability claim.
He believes the jury soured after hearing from Farm Bureau’s expert witness, mechanical engineer David Zedonis, who testified about an alleged defect that caused the accelerator to stick. Ford countered with three expert witnesses who testified about testing they did to try to replicate the alleged defect, but it could not be recreated.
After Zedonis left the stand, Glickfield said he could sense the jury seething, and he believed jurors might award damages above the policy limits. Glickfield said at that point he offered to settle the case for $1.5 million, but the defense declined.
Ford had refused to offer settlement, Glickfield said, and instead sought to vindicate the safety of its vehicle.
“We fully proved our vehicle is a non-defective vehicle,” said Frost Brown Todd LLC attorney Kevin Schiferl, among the attorneys who represented Ford.
Ford issued a statement after the verdict. “This was an unfortunate accident and our sympathy continues to go out to both the O’Banion and Roush families,” the automaker said.