Ford to Pay $82.6 Million in SUV Rollover Lawsuit

Ford to Pay $82.6 Million in SUV Rollover Lawsuit

A California woman who sued Fort Explorer in 2002 after an SUV rollover accident left her paralyzed, was awarded just $82.6 million in damages from the automaker.

An appeals court sharply cut a $150 million award approved by a trial judge in 2004. The original verdict included $369 million in compensatory damages and $246 million in punitive damages after a San Diego jury concluded that the woman's Explorer was unstable and had a defective roof.

Mother of two, Benetta Buell-Wilson, 51, was driving her 1997 Explorer on a San Diego freeway in 2002 when she swerved to pass a metal object. Buell lost control of her vehicle, which rolled 4 ½ times before the roof collapsed on her neck causing her spine to sever. Buell was paralyzed from the waist down.

The California appeals court ruled that the original jury amount awarded to Buell-Wilson was extreme by federal and state legal standards.

However, the court did reject the automakers arguments that punitive damages should be eliminated since the Explorer's design met the minimum safety standards. Appellate justices also denied Ford a new trial.

This is the first time Ford is required to pay damages in an Explorer rollover accident. It's also one of the largest personal-injury awards against an auto manufacturer.

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