Ford Motor Company has lost an appeal in an $82.6 million lawsuit involving an Explorer rollover accident, which left Benetta Buell-Wilson, a mother of two, paralyzed from the waist down. Ford’s attorneys had previously succeeded in reducing a $109 million damage award to $82.6 million. But an appellate court in San Diego has ruled that Buell-Wilson was entitled the reduced award, out of which $55 million was punitive damages, according to a news report.
The 4th District Court of Appeal took on the case after the U.S. Supreme Court asked the appellate court to review it. Ford had appealed the award arguing that they were being unfairly punished even though its design met federal vehicle safety standards. Buell-Wilson was reportedly driving her 1997 Ford Explorer on a freeway in San Diego when she lost control of her vehicle while swerving to avoid some debris on the road. Her Explorer rolled over four and a half times and the roof of the SUV collapsed on her neck severing her spine.
We’re very pleased this victim, after more than a decade of fighting with Ford’s high-powered legal team, finally received the compensation she deserves and probably needs for her own and her family’s future. Our firm has represented numerous people who have been victims of Ford SUV rollover accidents and the roof crush that results because of the auto maker’s ineffective vehicle and roof design.
Our firm and other law firms have obtained documents and internal memos, which clearly show that Ford has known about its SUV defects for years and has yet done nothing to improve the design or enhance public safety in spite of marketing the Explorer as a “safe vehicle for the family.” It’s interesting to note that all it takes is $30 per vehicle to get the roof strength up to a better standard. But Ford has deliberately chosen to put profits over people. Is one life not proof enough? Is a life not worth even $30?
Buell-Wilson could’ve lived a better, fuller life had Ford opted to make a safer vehicle rather than beef up its bottom-line. Sure, the flimsy roofs comply with federal safety standards, but those standards are extremely inadequate and have not been updated for more than 35 years. And no one knows those facts better than the guys upstairs at Ford Motor Company.