Ford looses appeal for $43 million verdict being excessive

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Ford looses appeal for $43 million verdict being excessive

Billy Meals was only six-years-old when he was involved in a survivable car accident. Because of a defect in his seat belt system, Billy’s body jackknifed under his seat belt, and he was left with significant injuries and permanent paralysis. Lacking a shoulder harness, the lap seat belt violently pushed the seat belt into Billy’s stomach and spine. Billy’s mother sued Ford Motor Company (“Ford”), alleging a defective design and seat belt failure as well as failure to warn of the potential dangers of the lap-only belt design.

The jury found for Billy, and awarded a verdict of $43 million dollars to compensate Billy and his family. Ford was found to be 15 percent at fault, making them liable for $6,570,000 of the total damages. Billy’s father was found 15 percent at fault for not seating Billy properly in his seatbelt. The driver of the car who hit them, who was drunk when his car hit Billy’s, was found was found 70 percent at fault for hurting Billy and for also killing Billy’s father.

Ford moved for a new trial, arguing that the jury’s verdict was excessive. After the trial court denied the motion for new trial, the Tennessee Court of Appeals held that the verdict was excessive and sent the case back to the trial court. The Court of Appeals did more than Ford asked for, and told the trial court to knock 70.55 percent off the verdict. The Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed, holding that the Court of Appeals erred in reversing and reducing the verdict. The Supreme Court reinstated the entire verdict, finding that the material evidence amply supported it.

The Supreme Court gets it right by respecting the jurors’ decision about the evidence they saw and heard. There was substantial evidence that Ford’s lap-only seatbelt design was defective, that Ford knew about it, but did not warn the public. Given the severity of Billy’s injuries, and the strength of the evidence about the defects, the jury did what juries are supposed to do, namely, it awarded a verdict that speaks the full truth about Billy’s injuries

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  1. […] acceleration issues, but Ford is now facing the issue as well. A lawsuit was filed against Ford Motor Co. for several Ford and Lincoln vehicles that were manufactured between 2002 and 2010 that […]

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