From: Reuters
Published March 12, 2008 04:06 PM

Calif. court reinstates $82.6 mln award vs Ford

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California appeals court reinstated an $82.6 million award against Ford Motor Co <F.N> in a rollover accident that left a woman a paraplegic.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled on Monday that the high court's directive "does not compel a reversal or a further reduction of the punitive damages" awarded in the case of Benetta Buell-Wilson, whose spine was crushed when her Ford Explorer rolled over in 2002.

At trial, a jury awarded Buell-Wilson and her husband $296 million in punitive damages alone, finding that Ford knew but failed to warn the Wilsons of a roof defect.

The trial judge reduced the punitive damages award to $75 million, and the appeals court reduced it further, to $55 million, bringing the total award to $82.6 million.

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The U.S. Supreme Court had vacated the San Diego court's previous judgment and ordered it to reconsider the award in light of a high court ruling that juries cannot use punitive damages to punish defendants for harm caused to third parties.

The high court reiterated, however, that juries may consider harm to third parties in determining the reprehensibility of a defendant's conduct, a factor in damages calculations.

The appeals court concluded that its original decision should stand with some changes and it also rejected a bid by Ford for a new trial or further reduction of the damages.

A Ford spokeswoman said the company was "disappointed in the decision" and plans to appeal it.

(Reporting by Gina Keating, editing by Richard Chang)

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