The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Spokane Jury Rejects Lawsuit Against Ford in Rollover Case

March 20, 2008

SPOKANE, Wash. --- In a case involving a Bronco II SUV rollover dating back to 1999, a federal jury has rejected claims that Ford Motor Co. was responsible for the injuries of a 13-year-old girl.

The nine-member U.S. District Court jury delivered its verdict on Tuesday, March 11. The girl's family had sought $30 million. Crystal Bear, now 21, is paralyzed on one side of her body. She was a backseat passenger in the car driven by her sister, Marla Bear, who was 16 at the time of the accident, the Associated Press reported.

The jury ruled that Marla Bear was entirely responsible for her sister's injuries.

The Bear family had argued that Crystal wasn't wearing a seatbelt because of a defective design. According to court testimony, the accident occurred when Marla Bear was driving her Bronco and became briefly distracted when she looked over her shoulder to see whether Crystal had fastened her seat belt. When the 1984 SUV drifted onto the shoulder, Marla oversteered and a rollover resulted.

This case's verdict came just one day after Ford lost an appeal in a $82.6 million Explorer rollover lawsuit in San Diego, Calif. The 4th District Court of Appeal was asked by the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case after Ford appealed the award, AP reported.

This accident occurred in January 2002, when Benetta Buell-Wilson was driving on an interstate east of San Diego and suddenly swerved to avert a metal object. She lost control of her 1997 Explorer and it rolled over four-and-a-half times, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. The roof had collapsed on her neck and severed her spine, according to testimony.

A jury originally awarded Buell-Wilson $369 million, including $246 million in punitive damages. But subsequent court decisions cut the size of the award. The $82.6 million approved by the appeals court includes punitive damages of $55 million, AP reported.


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