A lawsuit that resulted in a $122 million verdict against General Motors in 2002 “one of the ten largest that year” was settled this month as attorneys prepared for new trial in the case.

Plaintiff’s counsel Jere Beasley said the settlement was confidential.

In May 2002, a jury in Bullock County, Ala., returned a $122 million verdict against GM for a collision that left Jeffrey Jernigan with severe brain damage. The verdict “which was automatically cut to $82 million because of a state law limiting punitive damages” was one in a series of big judgments cited by business groups concerned about Alabama’s judicial system. (See ‘GM Slammed With $122M Head Injury Verdict,’ Lawyers Weekly USA, Jan. 6, 2003. Search words for LWUSA Archives: Jernigan and Bowden.)

In February 2003, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the award because of problems with jury selection and ordered a new trial was scheduled to begin on April 12.

The case stemmed from a two-vehicle collision on Dec. 10, 1999. Jernigan, then 12, was riding in the front seat of a 1993 Oldsmobile Delta 88 with his seatbelt on when the passenger compartment of the car collapsed around him.

In the lawsuit, the boy’s father, Bullock County Circuit Clerk Wilbert Jernigan, contended GM’s product was defective and dangerous.

In the settlement, GM admitted no liability.

“We stand behind the performance of the vehicle,” GM spokeswoman Brenda Rios said.

Beasley said the boy, now 16, is estimated to need $10 million in care for the rest of his life.

“Our goal was to make sure the boy was taken care of,” he said.



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