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January 29, 2006

Ford Appeals $150 Million Verdict in California Explorer Rollover Case

The plaintiff, Benetta Buell-Wilson, paraplegic due to a rollover accident in a 1997 Ford Explorer, won a jury verdict of $349 million before remittitur in San Diego County Superior Court, one of the largest verdicts ever in an automobile-related products liability case. 

The trial court reduced the award to $150 million, including $70,000 million in compensatory damages to Buell-Wilson, $5 million to her husband, and $75 million in punitive damages.  Ford appealed the verdict and judgment to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, arguing that the trial court committed several highly prejudicial errors in the trial and that the remittitur should have been more substantial. 

Ford argued in its brief that evidence concerning instability of the Bronco II should not have been admitted, and that evidence concerning the Explorer's real-world safety record and comparative data were wrongly excluded.  Ford also argued that punitive damages should not have been awarded as a matter of law because the plaintiff did not meet California's required clear and convincing evidence standard, and that the damages award, and that the punitive damages award, unrelated to any objective factors or rational basis violates the due process standards set out in  State Farm v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003) and BMW v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996). 5-10 Mealey's Prod. Liab. & Risk 1 (2006) (Sub'n Req'd)

MKS

January 29, 2006 | Permalink

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