WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ordered a state appeals court Monday to review a decision giving $82.6 million to a woman who was paralyzed after her Ford Explorer rolled over.
The justices want a California appeals court to determine if its ruling is in line with the Supreme Court decision overturning a $79.5 punitive damages award in a tobacco case earlier this year. The court said then that a jury may punish a defendant only for the harm done to the person who is suing, not to others whose cases were not before it.
Benetta Buell-Wilson, 51, 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.
In June 2004 a San Diego jury found that her Explorer was defective because of instability and a weak roof.
A jury initially awarded $369 million, including $246 million in punitive damages. It was the first damage award against the Ford Motor Company (F) involving a rollover of an Explorer and one of the biggest personal-injury awards ever against an automaker.
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