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Ford Appeals Damage Award

January 22, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a $290-million punitive damage verdict in a Bronco sport utility vehicle rollover case, calling the California jury award "grossly excessive."

The award, handed down in 1999, is believed to be the second-largest in an auto safety case. It was affirmed by the California Supreme Court last year.

The punitive award is 58 times the compensatory award.

Ford's appeal rests in part on a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a $2-million award for a car paint flaw as unconstitutionally excessive.

Attorneys for Ford contended that the award "defies the constitutional limitations on punitive damages that this court has repeatedly recognized."

Ramon and Salustia Romo and their 16-year-old son were killed when their 1978 Bronco rolled on a freeway. The couple's surviving children claim that Ford sold the Bronco knowing its removable fiberglass roof wouldn't hold up in a rollover.

In 1999, a jury ordered General Motors Corp. to pay $4.9 billion -- later cut to $1.2 billion -- to six people burned when the gas tank on a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu exploded.

Ford shares fell 2 cents to $10.14 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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