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Date: 06-03-2004

Case Style: Benetta Buell-Wilson and Barry Wilson v. Ford Motor Company

Case Number: Unknown

Judge: Unknown

Court: Superior Court, San Diego, California

Plaintiff's Attorney:

Dennis A. Schoville and Lou Arnell of Schoville & Arnell L.L.P., San Diego, California

Defendant's Attorney: Unknown

Description: Benetta Buell-Wilson, age 49, and her husband Barry, sued Ford Motor Company for spinal cord injuries she sustain in January 2002 when her 1997 Ford Explorer rolled over during an accident on a California highway when she swerved to avoid debris in the road. She claimed that she was paralyzed as a result of defects in the design of the sport utility vehicle that made it defective and unreasonably danagerous including the fact that the vehicle was more likely to rollover in an accident than other vehicles and that the roof was too weak to withstand forces that Ford knew or should have know would be applied to the roof structure duing such a rollover accident.

Ford denied that the Explorer being driven by Mrs. Wilson's husband was defective or unreasonably dangerous. Ford further claimed that the evidence and real-world data show the Explorer is a safe vehicle and that it meets or exceeds all federal safety standards.

Wilson, however, claimed that Ford declined to follow its engineers' suggestions to widen the Explorer's wheel track or to lower its center of gravity, costly changes that would make the vehicle more stable. Concern about costs also kept Ford from sufficiently reinforcing the Explorer's roof to protect passengers in a vehicle they knew was going to roll over.

Outcome: Plaintiffs' verdict for $122.6 million in compensatory damages only and $246 million in punitive damages.

Plaintiff's Experts: Unknown

Defendant's Experts: Unknown

Comments: Editor's Note: Ford has been very successful in defending cases of this type and has, in fact, reportedly won 11 such cases in a row.

News reports indicated that sales of new Explorers fell from 433,847 in 2002 to 373,118 last year, but the vehicle is still the most popular SUV and one of the top-selling vehicles of any kind.

It was a Los Angeles jury that found the Pinto to be defective and unreasonably dangerous.

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