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SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 3, 2004; Reuters reported that Ford Motor Co. has agreed to pay $23.7 million to a family involved in a 1993 rollover accident in a decision that ends more than a decade of legal wrangling, a lawyer for the world's third-largest automaker said on Tuesday.

The decision stems from a California appeals court ruling in November ordering Ford to pay $23.7 million to the Romo family after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a $290 million judgment in the same case, said Ford's lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr.

"We believe the remaining award is excessive and improper, but Ford decided to pay the judgment to resolve this 10-year-old case about a vehicle that was sold more than a quarter-century ago," Boutrous said.

The case involved the crash of a 1978 Bronco near Ceres, California. Three members of the Romo family were killed and three others were injured when the vehicle overturned several times, causing the roof to cave in.

The accident occurred after the Bronco's driver, Juan Romo, swerved when he was cut off by another vehicle.

The surviving plaintiffs sued Ford, claiming the roof had been improperly designed because it did not have steel reinforcement.

A Stanislaus County jury originally awarded them $4.6 million in compensatory damages and $290 million in punitive damages -- a judgment Boutrous said was the largest personal injury award ever upheld by an appeals court.

The U.S. Supreme Court eventually threw the damages out and sent the case back to the state court after ruling in a different case that punitive damages must be reasonable and proportionate to the harm suffered.
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