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Cameron County Jury Hits Ford With $18 Million Judgment

Apr 20, 2003 | The Brownsville Herald

Attorneys for Ford Motor Co. said they plan to appeal a Cameron County jury’s decision earlier this month that it must pay $18 million to a local resident who was confined to a wheelchair after a 2001 accident in his Ford pickup truck.

"We will do what the court tells us to do, but we will appeal," Ford spokesman Kathleen Vokes said.

A judgment hearing is scheduled for the end of this month. Then, the company will have the option to file an appeal in the case, said Mikal Watts, the plaintiff’s attorney.

Nearly two years ago, Mario Galvan Castro of San Benito broke his neck and was left paralyzed from a rollover accident in Dent County, Mo., after the roof of the cab collapsed on him. After a three-week civil trial, a Brownsville jury in the 197th state District Court concluded that Ford was 70 percent responsible for injuries Galvan received during the accident.

The jury determined the auto giant should pay the plaintiff $13 million for future and past damages and $5 million in punitive damages. The money would mainly cover the expenses to care for Galvan, who is now a quadriplegic, Watts said.

Galvan, now 22, declined to comment on the case.

"It’s a tragic thing that didn’t have to happen," Watts said.

On Aug. 20, 2001, Galvan was behind the wheel of a 1997 Ford F-150 pickup when he apparently missed a curve and veered off the road, hitting a culvert and rolling 1 1/2 times.

According to Galvan’s attorney, the Porter High School grad, who was wearing a seatbelt, suffered injuries as a result of the truck’s roof crushing down. Two passengers, who were also wearing their seatbelts, apparently walked away from the accident without injury, he said.

"By the time it (the truck) stopped rolling, his neck was broken," said Watts, the lead trial attorney.

Vokes said alcohol played a part in the accident, but Galvan’s attorney said a Breathalyzer test taken two hours after the accident showed Galvan’s blood-alcohol level was below the Missouri legal limit at the time.

Watts expects the automotive giant will settle the case instead of filing an appeal.

"I anticipate we’ll have some discussions in the case," Watts said Friday.

After the verdict, Galvan’s attorney recommended a full-scale recall of the PN96 model. Ford does not intend to recall the vehicle.

It would be up to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association to make such a recommendation, Vokes said.

"We have empathy with anyone who has an accident," she said. "Our empathy goes out to the family, but this is another tragic reminder that individuals should not drink and drive. These cases should be decided on evidence, not empathy

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