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Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Court: Reconsider $290M SUV award WASHINGTON— Ford Motor Co. won a Supreme Court victory Monday in its effort to avoid paying a record $290 million for a sport utility vehicle roll-over accident that killed three family members a decade ago.

The justices ordered a California court to consider whether the damage award was out-of-line. The high court also told Kentucky judges to decide whether Ford owed $18 million to the family of a miner killed when a Ford pickup truck slipped into reverse and crushed him.

The amounts could be reduced under a recent Supreme Court ruling setting limits on punitive damages. The high court did not give a formula for determining what punishment is reasonable but said in April that juries should not consider a company's wealth in making the decision.

That ruling is especially important for large companies like Ford that can face multiple lawsuits over their products.

The California case stems from an interstate wreck in 1993 that killed a couple and their teenage son. A jury said the Dearborn, Mich., automaker should pay $290 million in punitive damages, or about 1.2 percent of Ford's net worth at the time, as punishment for what a state appeals court found was "despicable conduct."

Ford attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. had told the Supreme Court that it was the largest personal injury affirmed on appeal in United States history.

He said that Ford was unfairly portrayed as a killer and that the large award in this case and others "make a mockery of due process" rights.

Stock soars after cancer treatment news SAN FRANCISCO — Genentech stock soared nearly 45 percent on Monday after the company said an experimental drug previously written off as a failure dramatically extended the lives of some of the sickest colon cancer patients.

Called Avastin, it is the most advanced of a new class of drugs which aim to shut off the blood supply to cancer tumors. Genentech is also testing Avastin in patients with kidney and other cancers.

South San Francisco-based Genentech offered few other details Monday, saying it would release the results of its experiment that involved more than 900 colon cancer patients at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago next month.

"This has the potential of being a blockbuster," said Adam Walsh, an analyst with Jeffries & Co. Inc.

Euro nears all-time high FRANKFURT, Germany — The euro edged closer to an all-time high against the U.S. dollar.

Monday's euro surge above $1.17 came after U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said over the weekend that the dollar's fall was part of "really fairly modest realignments" in currency markets.

Markets interpreted Snow's comment at a Group of Eight meeting in France as meaning U.S. officials wouldn't step in to stop the dollar's slide.

The euro reached as high as $1.1739 in European trading on Monday. The last time it was higher was Jan. 15, 1999, at $1.1749. In late New York trading, the euro was quoted at $1.1643.

The euro is now just two cents short of its all-time record of $1.1884 of Jan. 4, 1999.

Integrated steel maker files for bankruptcy WEIRTON, W.Va. — Weirton Steel Corp., the nation's sixth-largest integrated steel maker and No. 2 producer of tin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday.

The small, employee-owned company held on while an import crisis took down dozens of competitors, but racked up more than $700 million in losses over five years.

President and CEO John Walker said the company has obtained a $225 million financing package that will allow it to keep operating while it reorganizes. Walker had been in the middle of a plan to cut costs by $120 million when Weirton Steel's board of directors voted Monday to file for bankruptcy.

Wall Street tumbles on fears of falling dollar Wall Street suffered its biggest decline in nearly two months Monday as investors grew nervous that a declining dollar would dampen foreign investment in the United States.

The Dow closed down 185.58, or 2.1 percent, at 8,493.39. The broader market also finished lower. The Nasdaq composite index fell 45.76, or 3 percent, to 1,492.77 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 23.53, or 2.5 percent, to 920.77.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures tumbled on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as traders reverted to profit-taking on concerns about the strength of the economy and a lack of market-moving news.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery settled at $28.83 a barrel, down 31 cents, after trading as high as $29.50. On London's International Petroleum Exchange, the new front-month July Brent contract settled 49 cents lower at $25.61 a barrel.

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