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$33M Jury Verdict Against GM

A jury ordered General Motors Corp. on Monday to pay $33 million to the family of a 13-year-old boy who was burned to death in a 1991 gas tank fire.

CBS News correspondentByron Pitts reports that jurors agreed with allegations by Robert and Constance McGee that the lack of a protective shield over the gas tank turned their 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser into a potential bomb with the explosiveness of 100 sticks of dynamite.

The McGees were awarded $60 million in damages, but jurors said GM was only 55 percent responsible for Shane McGee's death. No punitive damages were awarded.

GM attorneys said they would appeal.

Shane and a cousin were killed when a trailer broke loose from a pickup truck and its tongue slid under the station wagon, puncturing the gas tank and sparking the fire. The family was on vacation in Virginia.

Shane's parents and sister, Kelly, then 11, also suffered extensive burns. The McGees, from Pembroke Pines, sued the automaker for $81 million for pain and suffering, plus unspecified punitive damages.

The jury, which heard more than six months of testimony, began deliberations on Wednesday and took Friday off.

The McGees claimed GM knew for more than 20 years about defects in the design of its station wagon gas tanks, pointing to company documents indicating similar models had failed crash tests as far back as 1969.

GM used rear-mounted gas tanks on its station wagons through 1983, before the introduction of front-wheel drive moved them to between the axles.

The largest award against a U.S. automaker is $262.5 million against Chrysler Corp. in October 1997. A jury in South Carolina blamed a faulty latch in the death of a 6-year-old boy who was thrown from a Chrysler minivan in an accident.

The previous largest award was $150 million in an Alabama case against General Motors.

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