Washington Man Sues Ford After Allegedly Defective Super Duty Pickup Rollover Leaves Him Paralyzed

Seattle-based personal injury attorneys take on automaker in a new lawsuit against Ford for an alleged defect at the crux of tragic injuries and fatalities

SPOKANE, Wash. – Ford Motor Co. was hit with a new lawsuit on behalf of a former law enforcement officer who was left fully paralyzed after his 2003 Ford Super Duty F-350 rolled over and collapsed, due to an allegedly defective and dangerously weak roof, according to attorneys at Seattle-based Hagens Berman.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 17, 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington and details the horrific aftermath and roof crush that attorneys say has led to many injuries and fatalities. Local personal injury attorneys at Hagens Berman accuse Ford of knowingly selling more than 5 million pickup trucks it was aware were equipped with a dangerously weak and defective roof. The law firm has also filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of owners of Ford Super Duty pickups nationwide, as well as a wrongful death case following a 25-year-old’s tragic death in a rollover accident in June 2017.

“The evidence will show that millions of potentially defective Super Duty trucks remain on the road and are driven daily,” said Jacob Berman, one of his attorneys at Hagens Berman. “We hope to prove that because of Ford’s alleged negligence and continued refusal to address this potentially fatal defect, this accident became a life-altering event from which our client will never fully recover.”

Ford’s Negligent and Dangerous Engineering

Attorneys state that Ford’s responsibility is two-part: not only did it manufacture and sell millions of trucks equipped with a dangerously weak roof design, but it also chose to refuse to warn its own customers, leaving drivers and passengers unaware of the potentially fatal risks.

The lawsuit says Ford was made aware of repeated instances of this alleged engineering flaw leading to tragic injuries and fatalities, and neglected to replace the defective roof with a stronger design, which was developed in 2004, until as late as 2017.

Hagens Berman’s lawsuit illuminated an even starker timeline of Ford’s alleged negligence, demonstrating that the automaker had over the course of nearly a decade continually downgraded or entirely removed key structural features of the roof design in order to cut costs. Ford’s redesign of the roof reinforcements, for example, downgraded the thickness of the steel by 7.5% — after having already reduced the thickness by 10% in a prior redesign — lowering Ford’s cost by ten cents per vehicle.

Cost-cutting Costs Lives

Rodney Philbeck purchased his Ford Super Duty F-350 to enjoy hunting trips in the Pacific Northwest, one of his favorite hobbies. He lived an active life and regularly camped, hunted and extensively practiced martial arts. He went to the Olympic Trials for Taekwondo.

On Nov. 30, 2020, Mr. Philbeck’s life would change forever when he and his partner were returning home from a hunting trip near the Snake River in eastern Washington. His Super Duty hit a patch of ice on a rural Washington highway, ran off the road, and rolled over. The F-350’s roof collapsed when the truck rolled, and despite landing right-side-up, the roof was so crushed that both occupants had to be extracted from the truck by emergency personnel using the “jaws of life,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states, “In a properly designed truck, this would have been frightening, but not life-altering. But the driver’s-side roof of Mr. Philbeck’s F-350 collapsed during the rollover, and Mr. Philbeck’s spine was almost completely severed.” His neck was also broken in the rollover. Mr. Philbeck spent more than a month at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash. and another three months in inpatient rehab, attorneys say.

Almost three years after the crash, he is paralyzed from the chest down, cannot use his hands, and is in pain every day, the lawsuit states. Mr. Philbeck lost his decades-long career in law enforcement and can no longer provide for his family, according to his attorneys. He endured multiple surgeries and medical crises stemming from his paralysis. He sustained a traumatic brain injury that still affects his short-term memory, and he requires 24-hour care.

“Our complaint states that rollovers are known to be one of the most dangerous types of car accidents,” Berman said. “We believe evidence will show that Ford has done an unconscionable thing to make what was already dangerous, catastrophically injurious by further weakening the reinforcement of its cabs.”

The lawsuit brings claims of product liability and unfair or deceptive trade practices and seeks to hold Ford liable for Mr. Philbeck’s catastrophic injuries which are the direct result of a roof design that Ford knew was extraordinarily weak, according to attorneys.

Learn more about the class-action lawsuit on behalf of owners of 1999-2016 Ford Super Duty truck owners.

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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman is a global plaintiffs’ rights complex litigation law firm with a tenacious drive for achieving actual results for those harmed by corporate negligence and fraud. Since its founding in 1993, the firm’s determination has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. The firm’s cases have recovered more than $320 billion for its clients. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

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