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Boy, 12, Awarded $34 Million

October 15, 2003|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

A Chatsworth jury awarded a 12-year-old boy about $34 million Tuesday for the permanent injuries he suffered when his family's Ford Windstar van crashed into a spilled load of steel on the Golden State Freeway in 1996.

Attorneys for Johan Karlsson sued the Ford Motor Co., alleging that the car manufacturer had known for more than two decades that lap belts caused serious injuries to young children.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Howard Schwab barred Ford lawyers from arguing that the belts were not defective because company executives had lied about documents showing the belts pose a serious danger, said attorney Tom Girardi, who represents Karlsson.

A spokesman for Ford could not be reached late Tuesday.

The approximately $34 million will be added to a settlement of $10 million the boy received earlier from a trucking company. The company owned a truck that spilled the load of steel that was struck by the van driven by the child's uncle.

Karlsson's spine was severed in the 1996 crash that shut down the freeway near Gorman for several hours. The boy, who was sitting in a rear seat, was the most seriously injured of the seven people in the van.

"He was the only one with a lap belt and he is the only one who is not walking," the boy's mother, Agneta Karlsson, said after the verdict.

She said her family, which had immigrated to the United States from Sweden two months earlier, was traveling to visit her sister in Washington state when the crash occurred.

Agneta Karlsson, who lives in Orange County, said she turned down a confidential settlement with Ford so others would learn from the tragedy.

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