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Sunday, July 23, 2006

$82M damages approved for family of woman in rollover accident: "

$82M damages approved for family of woman in rollover accident
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

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(07-19) 15:52 PDT SAN DIEGO -- A state appeals court approved $82 million in damages today for the family of a woman who was paralyzed when her Ford Explorer rolled over and the roof caved in.
The court cut a previous award nearly in half but said large damages were justified by Ford Motor Co.'s reckless conduct in marketing an unsafe product.
Benita Buell-Wilson, 46, was injured in January 2002 when she swerved to avoid an obstacle on a freeway near Alpine (San Diego County) and her 1997 sport utility vehicle went out of control and rolled over.
The pillars holding up the Explorer's roof crumpled, crushing Buell-Wilson as she hung upside down from her seat belt. An athletic woman who was then completing a master's degree in education, she was left a paraplegic and remains in constant pain, cared for by her husband and children, the Court of Appeal in San Diego said.
The court said there was evidence that Ford had known that the Explorer was unstable and prone to rollovers, but that the company had decided not to make changes because that would have cut into profits. There was also evidence that the roof of the vehicle was weak and that Ford could have strengthened the Explorer for about $20 per vehicle, the court said.
A jury awarded Buell-Wilson and her husband $122 million in compensation and $246 million in punitive damages. The trial judge found the amounts excessive and reduced the total award to $150 million.
In today's ruling, the appeals court said the reduced award for Buell-Wil"


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