The aw-shucks Arkansas attorney is in Sacramento, representing 415,000 California car buyers who owned Ford Explorers in the 1990s. Oh, and he's after $2 billion. In the past, Ford has settled hundreds of death and injury lawsuits, but this time the automaker will be taking its chances in Superior Court. The suit claims that Ford marketed Explorers as safe family cars, but knew that a narrow build made the vehicles likely to roll over in emergency maneuvers. Plus, there's the money angle: The resale value of Explorers fell after a bunch of rollover accidents. Ford's lawyers, who call the consumer-protection lawsuit a case without merit, cite defective Firestone tires. The Sacramento Bee offers a mostly softball portrait of the man who will be played by Michael Douglas in an upcoming movie (Turney has been featured in The New York Times Magazine and "Frontline."
Turner insisted he is motivated to seek justice against Ford because it killed people through its "conscious misbehavior" in advertising the Ford Explorer as a safe substitute for the family station wagon. "They marketed this thing to run up and down the highway at 70 mph when they knew it would flip over at 35," he said, sipping coffee from a takeout cup in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand hotel. Turner, with his gray hair and glasses, doesn't seem like a plaintiffs' attorney who has made a fortune suing carmakers and is on friendly terms with the likes of former first couple Bill and Hillary Clinton. He talks in a polite, low-key way with an Arkansas accent and wears off-the-rack sports coats to court instead of hand-tailored suits.
Turner attended the University of Arkansas School of Law. He had planned on going back to Arkadelphia to practice with his father but landed a job in Little Rock with Friday, Eldredge & Clark, the state's largest law firm. While still in his mid-20s, he began trying dozens of cases for the firm, which mainly defended corporations and represented insurance companies. His first big victory was in an insurance-fraud case against Wal-Mart, in which he won a $26.5 million verdict. A case against a labor union brought a $22 million verdict, Turner said.