California high court upholds verdict against Ford
LOS ANGELES, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to hear an appeal of a $290 million punitive damage award against Ford Motor Co. <F.N> stemming from the death of three people in 1993 when their Bronco sport utility rolled over.
Ford said it would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Shares in the auto maker traded as low as $8.71 in after-hours trade, down from a regular session close of $9.17 on the New York Stock Exchange.
"This is an extreme and unconstitutional punitive damage award and we will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn it," Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes told Reuters.
The California high court denied Ford's request to review the punitive damage award and to make a state appellate court opinion that described the auto maker's conduct as "despicable" unavailable as the basis for any future lawsuits.
Joe Carcione, the attorney for the Romo family, had argued that the Bronco was prone to roll over and had a weak, poorly designed roof that Ford knew could fail.
Ford officials had denied the rollover allegations and said the removable, fiberglass roof panel on the Bronco exceeded federal safety standards at the time the vehicle was made.
Carcione said he was "overjoyed" with the court's decision.
"They knowingly, wantonly and willfully put a car on the road that would kill people ... who were wearing their seat belts," he said. "That's what the (California) Supreme Court stared at and said, 'Oh my God.'"
In July 1999, a central California jury ordered Ford to pay $295 million to the family of a couple and their son killed when their 1978 Bronco rolled over in 1993.
That award included $5 million in economic damage, awarded for loss of income and other demonstrated losses, and $290 million in punitive damages.
The punitive award could be affected by a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court that tests the court's suggested ratio between punitive and economic damages in product liability cases, Ford's lawyer Theodore Boutrous said.
Tobacco and auto makers have invoked that ratio in state appellate courts to try to reduce huge punitive damages awards.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....