Jury Awards San Diego Paralyzed Musician $18M - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Jury Awards San Diego Paralyzed Musician $18M

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Nearly 17 years after graduating from Monte Vista High School in Spring Valley, Dax Pierson was a successful musician traveling with his band Subtle in Iowa. That all changed in February 2005 when an accident left him a quadriplegic.

The former Grossmont College student will soon be a very rich man after a jury ordered Ford Motor Company to pay him more than $18 million.

At the height of their career, Pierson and Subtle were playing across America and were on their way to a European tour and worldwide fame. The Oakland-based band was driving through Iowa in February 2005 when its Ford tour van hit a patch of black ice and flipped two and a half times. The keyboardist became paralyzed from the chest down after his seat broke loose and slammed his head into the vehicle's roof.

"If I could regain what I had previously, I'd give the money back," he said.

Now a jury has awarded Pierson more than $18 million in damages, including $12 million for medical expenses and $6 million for pain and suffering.

"It's surreal right now. Just because this lawsuit has happened it doesn't mean I'll regain use of my limbs or anything," he said.

Although Ford denied the van was defectively designed, Pierson's lawyers claimed the main problem was the seat latch. If it didn't fail, Pierson - who was wearing his seat belt - would have been uninjured and the band would have played on.

"They were prepared to go through the ceiling, but the problem was that Dax went into the ceiling, broke his neck and that was the end of the band," Pierson's lawyer Kevin Quinn said.

Despite his condition, Pierson is still making music using special sticks and a unique computer program.

"Music has always been something that has driven me, and it's really what keeps me alive and what keeps me happy," he said.

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