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$82.6 Million Damages Award Upheld in Ford Explorer Rollover Case

Source: San Diego Union-Tribute

Posted on 01 Dec 2009

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A San Diego woman who is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after a rollover accident in a Ford Explorer is entitled to $82.6 million in damages from the automaker, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

The nation's highest court refused to review the damages award to Benetta Buell-Wilson, who was critically injured in June 2002 when she swerved to avoid an object in the road. Her Ford Explorer tipped then rolled more than four times before coming to a rest on its roof, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Ford asked the Supreme Court to overturn the damages award, but the court denied review without comment. It is the last chapter in a winding legal road for the damages award, according to Buell-Wilson’s attorneys.

She filed a lawsuit claiming the design of the SUV was flawed because it was unstable and had a weak roof. She also claimed Ford knew of those flaws and that the Explore was prone to rollovers, but did nothing to fix them.

Ford asked for high court review of the damages award, saying state law for punitive damages is unconstitutional when it comes to products that meet federal safety standards. During the trial, Ford attorneys argued the car met those standards.

Buell-Wilson was awarded $369 million damages in 2004, before that amount was reduced on appeals, according to the Union-Tribune report.