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SUV CASE WILL KEEP HAUNTING AUTOMAKERS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Nov 10, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The new ones are improved, but are they still vulnerable to lawsuits?

SUV CASE WILL KEEP HAUNTING AUTOMAKERS Automakers' pleas went unanswered as the California Supreme Court refused to review or de-publish a ruling that leaves Ford Motor Company on the hook for will probably expose the auto industry to greater liability for defective vehicles." Theodore Boutrous Jr. of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm that represents Ford in the case, Buell-Wilson v. Ford Motor Comoany (S146150). told The Recorder that the court's decision "leaves California product liability law in a state of havoc." Boutrous asserts that the underlying ruling "is bad for both businesses and consumers and violates due process." "The automobile industry has had its eyes on the case since June 2004, when San Diego jurors awarded Benetta Buell-Wilson more than $368 million in damages after she was paralyzed when her Ford Explorer rolled over on Interstate 8," says McKee. Of that amount, $246 million was for punitive damages. Jurors evidently felt Ford had acted reprehensibly and had taken no steps to correct design flaws that made the vehicle prone to rollovers. San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright subsequently reduced the overall award to $150 million. Then four months ago, the 4th District Court of Appeal cut it even further, to $82.6 million, reports McKee. "In his petition for review, Boutrous argued that the trial court judge had erred in computing punitive damages. Even more worrisome to automakers, he added, the judge had prevented Ford from introducing critical evidence on industry safety standards," says McKee. "In particular, he wrote, Judge Enright refused to let Ford present evidence that would have shown the Explorer was one of the safest sport utility vehicles on the road." According to The Recorder, Ford's petition was supported in amicus curiae briefs filed by Nissan Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler Corp., American Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Mercedes-Benz USA, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Product Liability Advisory Council, the California Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America. - Roy Nakano

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