The San Diego County jury awarded 49-year-old Benetta Buell-Wilson $122 million in compensatory damages against Ford Motor Company on Tuesday. The panel was still deliberating on punitive damages against Ford in the January 2002 ‘roll over’ accident.
Ford said it would appeal the decision, which marked its first setback in a series of lawsuits over alleged safety defects with the popular sport utility vehicle.
Kathleen Vokes, a spokeswoman for the automaker, said in a statement that the fault for the accident was with the driver.
“In all 11 trials prior to this case, juries have found the Explorer to be a safe vehicle. We are extremely disappointed that the judge did not allow key evidence comparing the Explorer to other SUVs,” Vokes said.
“We can appreciate the empathy that this jury felt for the plaintiff, but this was an extremely severe crash caused by the driver, and any SUV would have rolled over under similar circumstances,” she said. “The evidence and real world data show the Explorer is a safe vehicle — it meets or exceeds all federal safety standards.”
A lawyer for Buell-Wilson was not immediately available for comment.