Suit with big GM verdict settled before retrial

posted on:
April 16, 2004

author:
Staff

UNION SPRINGS, Ala. (AP) – A lawsuit that originally resulted in a $122 million verdict against General Motors was settled out of court Friday as attorneys prepared for new trial in the case.

The terms of the settlement with the family of a severely injured Bullock Court boy are confidential, GM spokesman Brenda Rios said.

Jere Beasley, whose firm represented the boy’s family, said the settlement was private at GM’s request.

In May 2002, a Bullock County jury returned a $122 million verdict against GM for a wreck that left Jeffrey Jernigan with severe brain damage. The verdict was automatically cut to $82 million because of a state law limiting punitive damage verdicts.

The verdict was one in a series of big judgments cited by business groups concerned about Alabama’s judicial system.

In February 2003, the Alabama Supreme Court threw out the verdict because of problems with jury selection and ordered a new trial. The new trial was scheduled to begin Monday, but the settlement Friday canceled that.

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,” Rios said Friday.

Beasley said the boy, now 16, is estimated to need $10 million in care of the rest of his life. “Our goal was to make sure the boy was taken care of,” he said.

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