Ford Faces Largest Judgment

Largest Judgment In New York History Arising From Single Accident

Staten Island judge adjusts multi- million dollar verdict against Ford Motor Company for damages sustained in accident due to “defective and negligently designed roof structure”- awards local family nearly 20 million for damages sustained from fatal SUV Rollover

Georgetown, SC September 9, 2008- A trial verdict against Ford Motor Company and Ford Motor Credit Company, was recently adjusted from approximately $11,500,000 to close to $20,000,000, to be awarded to the Motelson family from Mariners Harbor, NY. This decision came about after the court’s review of similar cases in New York involving the “zone of danger” rule.

The Bell Legal Group, LLC was lead council in the lawsuit filed by the Motelson family against Ford, which stemmed from a fatal accident that occurred in a Ford SUV rollover on July 1, 2000.

Gary Motelson and his son were among four passengers in a 1998 Explorer driven by Gary’s father, Steven Motelson. The group was returning to Staten Island from a Boy Scout camp-o-ree in Narrowsburg, N.Y., when the vehicle overturned on Route 17 in upstate Goshen. Steven Motelson, 60, a respected Scout leader and Mariner Harbor resident, was killed in the wreck along with Gary’s 9-year-old son. Gary Motelson, then 36, and his 5-year-old son, Evan, survived the accident, as did a 21-year-old passenger.

After the trial in March of this year, a jury found that Ford was liable under strict product liability and negligent in its design of the roof structure, which was found to be the proximate cause or substantial factor of Steven Motelson’s death. J. Edward Bell III, of the Bell Legal Group, charged that the elder Motelson was killed when the driver’s-side roof shredded on the first of nearly four rolls, exposing his head. “This is another unfortunate example in which Ford has callously chosen profit over consumer safety. For only pennies they could have easily strengthened their SUV’s roof structure to with stand these types of rollover roof failures, and they know it.”, Bell said.

The jury determined that Ford’s negligence and faulty design of the Ford Explorer’s roof support system, was a substantial factor in causing Steven Motelson’s death, as well as the deaths and the injuries sustained by other victims of the accident, including his son Gary. The panel awarded $6.5 million to Steven Motelson’s widow and estate and an additional 9% prejudgment interest, totaling approximately $11,500,000.

The jury, however, found Ford was not liable for the death of Gary Motelson’s older son or the injuries Motelson and his younger boy suffered.

Mr. Bell claimed that Gary Motelson and Evan Motelson should be awarded damages because they were in the “zone of danger” when the accident occurred and sustained severe emotional distress as a result of the accident.”

Justice Joseph J. Maltese stated, “While jurors had found Ford not responsible for the younger boy’s physical injuries, the panel failed to discern the difference between those injuries and the psychological trauma he endured in witnessing the death of his older brother and grandfather.” The judge stated in a 19 page decision that Gary and Evan Motelson not only witnessed their father and grandfather’s head crushed under the roof, but also feared that their own lives were in peril, as they were under the same roof which the jury found was defective and negligently designed. The boy was in the so-called “zone of danger,” which legally means, he, too, was threatened with bodily harm created by the defendant’s negligence and entitled to compensation.”

The judge awarded $8.6 million to Gary Motelson and his son for psychological damages, psychiatric care, medicine, as well as for past and future pain and suffering. Ford must also pay statutory interest of 9 percent going back to the date of the incident and the filing of the award. This combined with the total award of $13.8 million, comes close to a $20 million dollar verdict against Ford. If upheld on appeal, it would constitute the largest judgment in a Staten Island court arising from a single accident.

For more information about this verdict, contact the Law Offices of J. Edward Bell at 877-453-5055 or visit

About the Bell Legal Group LLC. The attorneys and staff of the Bell Legal Group focus on select and challenging areas of law and bring 25 years litigation experience. To successfully litigate the large scale cases for which the Bell Legal Group has become known, the firm offers its own unique reserve of capital, resources and state of the art technology. Leaving no stone unturned while representing its clients, the firm has built its reputation concentrating in the areas of automotive defect, medical malpractice, nursing home litigation, personal injury litigation and police and prison misconduct cases. For more information on the Bell Legal Group LLC call 877-453-5055 or visit