Ford Motor Co. is forced to a pay $55 million in punitive damages to a California couple who were involved in a crash while inside a 1997 Explorer in 2002 after a Supreme Court decision last Monday favored this couple. The Supreme Court rejected Ford's plea to review a rollover-liability case for Benetta Buell-Wilson and her husband.
She was paralyzed below the waist when her Explorer rolled over several times on a San Diego expressway and its roof collapsed. The crash happened when Buell-Wilson swerved to miss debris that fell off a vehicle in front of her. Initially, the couple was awarded almost $123 million for personal and economic losses.
The jury said Ford should pay an additional $246 million in punitive damages for "maliciously" making an unsafe product. Subsequently, a trial judge and an appeals court revised those amounts and Ford was ordered to pay $27.6 million in actual damages and $55 million in punitive damages.
The actual damage amount has already been paid and all that's left is the dispute on the $88 million punitive award, said Jerome Falk, Buell-Wilson's attorney.
That amount is inclusive of the 10 percent interest required by California law for punitive damages. Falk said he does not think Ford will argue the interest amount.
Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans has not given a formal statement or spoken to reporters but in an e-mail, she said that the company is disappointed that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to address some very important issues about runaway punitive damages."