SUPREME COURT ALLOWS $83 MILLION DOLLAR VERDICT TO STAND AGAINST FORD
On Monday, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of an $83 million dollar verdict against Ford Motors resulting from injuries suffered when a Ford Explorer rolled over. In January of 2002, Brennetta Buell-Wilson was driving an Explorer on a California highway. She swerved to avoid an object in the road and the vehicle rolled over multiple times. She was left paralyzed.
Ms. Buell-Wilson and her husband sued Ford in California, alleging the Explorer’s roof was defective and the vehicle was prone to rolling over. The jury returned an enormous verdict – $364 million dollars in total, with most of the award coming in the form of punitive damages. The jury’s verdict was likely driven in part by evidence they heard that the roof could have been strengthened on the Explorer model for $20 per vehicle.
The trial court and Appellate Court reduced the verdict, and in 2006 the Appellate Court set the verdict at $27.6 million dollars in compensatory damages and $55 million in punitive damages.
Ford’s appeal to the United State Supreme Court was only as to the punitive aspect of the award. Ford argued that the punitive damages were unfair as it had complied with industry and governmental safety standards. Ford was joined in its appeal by the United States Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber questioned the wisdom of allowing jurors to punish manufacturers for defective products.
The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, allowing the $83 million dollar verdict to stand intact.