Court Reiterates $82.6M Award for Woman

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A California appeals court said a woman who was paralyzed after her Ford Explorer rolled over is entitled to $82.6 million in damages from the automaker.

The 4th District Court of Appeal was asked by the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case after Ford Motor Co. appealed the award, arguing that it was being punished even though the design of the vehicle met federal safety standards.

Benetta Buell-Wilson was driving on an interstate east of San Diego in January 2002 when she swerved to avoid a metal object and lost control of her 1997 Explorer, which rolled 4 1/2 times. The mother of two was paralyzed from the waist down when the roof collapsed on her neck, severing her spine.

A jury initially awarded Buell-Wilson $369 million, including $246 million in punitive damages but courts twice cut the size of the award.

The $82.6 million approved by the appeals court Monday includes punitive damages of $55 million.

The Supreme Court wanted the appeals court to determine if its ruling was in line with an earlier Supreme Court decision overturning a $79.5 million punitive damages award in a tobacco case.

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