A Boulder County jury last week awarded a Boulder man almost $3 million in damages from the Ford Motor Company after it ruled that a defective seat in his 1998 SUV caused him serious injury during a 2009 accident, according to attorneys involved in the case.
Forrest Walker, the former co-owner of ALTA Physical Therapy in Boulder, was awarded $2.9 million on Friday for economic losses, non-economic losses and permanent physical impairment, attorneys for both sides confirmed this week.
"This is vindication for Mr. Walker," said Mike Thomson, of Purvis Gray, LLP. "These are very hard cases to take to trial and it was a tough opponent, so we feel real good."
According to the lawsuit filed in Boulder District Court in 2011, Walker was driving his 1998 Ford Explorer on Sept. 20, 2009, at the intersection of Arapahoe Avenue and Cerryvale Road in Boulder. Walker's vehicle was rear-ended, and the lever-activated recliner in the seat disengaged, causing the seat to drop into a fully reclined position.
Walker was thrown headfirst into the backseat of the vehicle and suffered severe upper neck injuries as well as some head trauma. According to the complaint, Walker still has visual problems and some cognitive and speaking deficiencies as a result of the crash and was forced to give up his job as a physical therapist.
Thomson said the accident was not violent enough to even break the back windows of Walker's SUV and yet the seat failed, which convinced him and his colleagues that they were dealing with a product safety issue.
"Product liability cases against a company like Ford are always tough," Thomson said. "But we felt the product was reasonably dangerous and we got a smart jury that understood that. But you never know when you're putting the case in the hands of people you never met."
Jay Cooney, director of corporate communications for Ford, said Tuesday that the motor company will appeal the verdict.
"We're disappointed with the jury's decision and we plan to appeal," Cooney said.
Ford was represented in the case by Denver-based Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP.
Thomson said he expected Ford to appeal but is confident the case -- which was overseen by Boulder District Judge Maria Berkenkotter -- will stand.
"We're pretty confident the result will hold," Thomson said. "Ultimately the jury realized Mr. Walker was hurt and he was a good man who had a good portion of his life taken away by injuries."
Walker elected not to comment on the case Monday.
Thomson said he hopes the verdict will help show what Walker has been through after Ford's attorneys throughout the trial tried to downplay his injuries.
"It doesn't fix his injuries, but it's a vindication," Thomson said. "You go through a process where you're fighting against people who are essentially acting like you're not hurt, so for members of the community to see that he was hurt made Mr. Walker feel good. Essentially for months on end, they made him feel like he was imagining his injuries."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.