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April 19, 2007

Ford Rollover Case Draws Minor Punitive Damages Award

Perhaps another sign of Ford Motor Company's present perilous financial condition is a New Jersey jury's very modest punitive damages award in an SUV rollover case.  The plaintiff was injured when the Ford Explorer she was driving on the highway lurched forward due to a defective gas pedal design.  The driver panicked and turned the wheel suddenly, causing the vehicle to roll over.  She suffered permanent serious hand and arm injuries.  The jury awarded $10.6 million in compensatory damages.  The compensatory award was reduced by 28 percent because the plaintiff was speeding at the time of the accident, and reduced by a further $2 million because she was not wearing a seat belt, to a total of about $7 million. 

In addition to the compensatory award, the jury awarded only $42,500 in punitive damages.  In rebutting the plaintiff's evidence of Ford's financial condition, the defense introduced evidence of the automaker's recent mass layoffs and losses.  Perhaps the jury was influenced by Ford's report of a net loss of $12.7 billion for 2006 and announcement in January 2007 of plans to eliminate 25,000 to 30,000 jobs in North America and to close 14 assembly plants by 2012. 

See Charles Toutant's article for the New Jersey Law Journal.

JDP

April 19, 2007 | Permalink

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