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CARMAKER ARGUES FINANCIAL WOES TO REDUCE PUNITIVES

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 Thu, Apr 19, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

CARMAKER ARGUES FINANCIAL WOES TO REDUCE PUNITIVES JURORS AWARD ONLY $42,500 IN PUNITIVES IN $10.6 MILLION SUV ROLLOVER CASE (Middlesex County, New Jersey) - Ford Motor Co. may have been spared a monster punitive damages verdict in an SUV rollover case because its lawyer was allowed to tell jurors about the carmaker's dire financial straits and mass layoffs, according to Charles Toutant of the New Jersey Law Journal. "The Middlesex County, N.J., jury on Wednesday awarded only $42,500 in punitives, despite having found Ford liable for $10.6 million in compensatory damages to a paralyzed driver," says Toutant. Ford lawyer Thomas Hinchey of Campbell, Campbell, Edwards & Conroy in Woodbury, N.J., referred to the automaker's recent mass layoffs and losses in its argument to keep punitive damages down. Ford reported a 2006 full-year net loss of $12.7 billion, and in January the automaker announced plans to eliminate 25,000 to 30,000 jobs in North America and close 14 plants by 2012. Superior Court Judge Jamie Happas overruled objections by the plaintiff's lawyer, Barry Eichen, of Eichen Levinson in Edison, N.J. The suit claimed that the 2000 accident was caused by a defective throttle design in the 1997 Ford Explorer that made its accelerator stick. "When plaintiff Rebekah Zakrocki, then 21, pressed hard on the gas while driving on the Garden State Parkway, the vehicle lurched forward," according to the NJLJ report. "Panicked, she turned the wheel to the left, causing the vehicle to roll onto its roof." The suit also charged that the design of the vehicle's suspension, brakes and high center-of-gravity gave it a heightened propensity to roll over. Ford reportedly still plans to appeal the verdict.

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