Six class actions filed against Ford in federal court

Steve Gonzalez Feb. 1, 2007, 7:23am

Jeffrey Lowe of St. Louis filed six class action suits in U.S. District Court Jan. 29, against Ford Motor Co. claiming certain Ford vehicles are defective and unsafe.

Lowe claims claims the Ford vehicles in question are defective and unsafe because;

  • The speed control deactivation switch (SCD Switch) is located in a circuit that is always energized with electricity even when the vehicle is off and in the parked position;

  • The circuitry for the SCD switch does not contain a fused wiring harness that will interrupt the power to the switch if it starts to overheat because of a short to the ground;

  • The SCD switch has two compartments, the hydraulic department which contains brake fluid and the electrical department which contains always-energized electric components;

  • Vacuum pressure generated by the brake system caused the Kapton orientation to invert and ultimately fatigue and wear out much sooner; and

  • The SCD switch, which is typically mounted on the brake proportioning valve, is mounted in the master cylinder in a vertically angled up and down so that metallic corrosion products can settle in a way that dendrite growth can develop.

    Lowe claims as dendrites grow and accumulate their electrical resistance drops and their current carrying capacity increases causing temperatures to raise high enough to produce an open flame.

    He claims this creates a significant fire risk not only to the Ford vehicles, but also the Ford houses and garages in which the vehicles are parked.

    "Ford knew there were problems with the design, manufacture, and placement of the SCD Switch used in the Ford vehicles nevertheless, Ford used the same or similar design in vehicles that are the subject of this lawsuit," the complaints state.

    Ford recently reported its worst year in the company's history, having lost $12.7 billion in 2006.

    Lowe claims that at least 65 fires reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by June 22, 2005, were confirmed to have been caused by the failure of the SCD Switch.

    He claims in 1999, Ford voluntarily recalled 250,000 vehicles to replace the switch with a nearly identical switch without adding a fuse to correct the problem.

    According to the complaints, Ford recalled Crown Victoria's, Lincoln Town Cars and Mercury Grand Marquises manufactured from 1992-93.

    Lowe claims that on Jan. 27, 2005, Ford then recalled 740,451 vehicles to add a fuse to the circuit and instructed owners to take their vehicles to a Ford dealer so that they could disable the cruise control function to avoid fires.

    In the second recall, Ford noted problems in Ford F-150 trucks, Ford Expeditions, Lincoln Navigators and Ford F Series trucks manufactured in 2000.

    Lowe claims that owners of those vehicles received letters informing them to go to the dealership to have their cruise control disabled until the parts they needed to make the repair were available in April and May 2005.

    Lowe represents:

  • Paul Sharwell of Wanship, Utah, who claims his 2000 Ford F-150 Truck caught fire in a parking lot in Salt Lake City on Jan. 1, 2004, leaving his truck unsalvageable.

  • Destry Watson of Sterrett, Ala. who claims that on July 30, 2004, his 2000 Ford F-150 XLT caught fire while on the parking lot at the Urban Center. By the time the fire was put out it had spread to another car on the parking lot.

  • Linwood Hall claims his 2000 Ford Expedition caught fire in the garage of his Hookertown, N.C. home on Feb. 20, 2005. The fire spread to his house causing both fire and smoke damage.

  • Joel Radford of Plainville, Ind. claims his Ford F-150 caught fire in his driveway on Oct. 16, 2005. He claims the contents in his vehicle and the siding on his home was damaged.

  • Richard Massaro of Bushkill, Penn. claims his 1996 Ford F-150 sustained damages after an explosion to his truck.

  • Jimmie Shelby of Flint, Mich. claims his 1998 Ford Expedition was totaled after a fire on Jan. 1, 2004.

    The plaintiffs claims Ford told them that since their vehciles were not part of the recall Ford could not be of any assistance.

    Lowe claims the statutes of limitations have been tolled, or have not run, or Ford is estopped from asserting the statutes because Ford allegedly concealed and falsely denied the defects in the Ford vehicles.

    The plaintiffs' are seeking an amount to be determined at trial, plus punitive damages in an amount be proven at trial.

    United States District Judge David Herndon has been assigned to all six cases.

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