Ford asks state appeals court to reduce award in Bronco trial

Copyright 1998 Associated Press
September 11, 1998

Lawyers for Ford Motor Co. have asked the Indiana Court of Appeals to throw out the remaining $ 13.8 million in punitive damages awarded to two women who suffered permanent injuries after the Bronco II vehicle they were riding in rolled over.

The automaker asked for the reduction Thursday. The women's attorney, meanwhile, asked the court to restore a higher award.

Pamela and Lana Ammerman, both now in their 20s, were hurt when the Bronco II sport-utility vehicle they were riding in swerved off the road and flipped several times on Aug. 2, 1991.

Pamela Ammerman, who is now divorced from Lana Ammerman's brother, suffered permanent brain damage. She now lives in Bloomington. Lana Ammerman, who lives in Rushville, has a disfigured face from the crash.

A jury on Oct. 31, 1995, awarded the women $ 62.4 million after concluding the automaker knew there was a problem with the vehicle but failed to make it safer.

Brian Boyle, an attorney representing Ford, said the company didn't receive a fair trial in 1995 because the women's lawyers were allowed to use "junk science" to prove their case. Experts who conducted test drives with the Bronco II couldn't repeat their results in other lawsuits, he argued.

Boyle called the punitive award excessive and unnecessary, noting that the $ 4.4 million in compensatory damages was a large amount. No Indiana resident has won as much in punitive or compensatory damages in any of the state's civil courts.

In July 1996, Marion Superior Court Judge David Rimstidt reduced the jury's award of $ 58 million in punitive damages to $ 13.8 million - still a state record - but left intact the compensatory damages.

An attorney for the Ammermans asked the appeals court to reinstate the full punitive damages.

"This is the most reprehensible case of corporate misconduct in the history of this state," Indianapolis attorney Karl L. Mulvaney argued before the court.

In court papers, the women's lawyers argue that Ford ignored the recommendations of its engineers, who thought the Bronco II would be less prone to roll over if it was lower and wider.

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