2001 Ford Explorer gravel road

Ford's second-generation Explorer has just cost the company $131 million. Despite the popularity of the seminal SUV, it's had more than its fair share of legal scrapes regarding its rollover resistance. And while the Explorer/Firestone tire kerfuffle has long since exited the headlines, the Blue Oval continues to get its pocketbook dinged by the SUV. According to Autoblog sister site AOL Autos, this week, a jury in Jackson, Mississippi was to decide on possible punitive damages in the lawsuit over the death of Brian Cole, a promising baseball player headed for the New York Mets. Ford settled with the family over the matter of the 2001 rollover accident after a jury awarded $131 million in damages. Punitive damages were the next decision the jury was to consider before Ford settled.

Ford apparently disagrees with the blame placed on its vehicle, saying that the 22-year-old Cole was speeding and not wearing a seatbelt. Cole died from injuries sustained after being ejected from his Explorer during a rollover accident on a Florida highway. His cousin, Ryan Cole, survived the accident, which Ford attributes to the use of a seatbelt and the Explorer's crash performance. While a settlement can be taken as a de facto acknowledgement of the Cole family's claims that the Explorer is inherently unstable and its safety belts can fail in rollovers, the automaker maintains that it didn't receive a fair trial, and settled to bring closure to the issue.

[Source: AOL Autos]