MIAMI – A Miami jury has ordered Ford Motor Co. to pay $15.4 million to a young girl who suffered severe brain damage and paralysis in an Econoline van rollover accident during a family trip to Disney World.
The Circuit Court jury awarded Ramon and Maria Jimenez, on behalf of their 12-year-old daughter Phoebe, a $ 30.7 million verdict, their lawyers said. It was reduced by 50 percent because she was not wearing a seat belt, they said in statement.
In the ruling announced late on Thursday, the jury found Ford guilty of manufacturing a defect in the tire valve on the 1999 Ford Econoline 15-passenger van which the family had rented to drive to Walt Disney World in Orlando to celebrate Phoebe's 10th birthday on May 9, 1999.
The driver lost control when a tire blew out and the van rolled over, leaving Phoebe in what family attorney Ervin Gonzalez described as ``an almost complete vegetative state.''
Ford faces hundreds of personal injury lawsuits because of rollovers of its popular Explorer sport utility vehicle, in accidents it blames on allegedly defective Firestone tires. The Miami case was not related to those lawsuits, however, and Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said the tire involved in the accident was not manufactured by Firestone.
``Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the Jimenez family, but this is sad reminder that seat belts can help protect passengers only when they are worn,'' said Vokes, who added that none of the 12 occupants of the Econoline van were wearing seatbelts when it crashed.
``No proof of a manufacturing defect was shown,'' she said. ''This was simply a tragic accident compounded by passengers not being belted.''