Ford F150 switches cited in federal class action

By Steve Gonzalez | Jan 31, 2007

Paul Sharwell filed a class action suit in U.S. District Court Jan. 29, against Ford Motor Company claiming certain Ford vehicles are defective and unsafe.

Paul Sharwell filed a class action suit in U.S. District Court Jan. 29, against Ford Motor Company claiming certain Ford vehicles are defective and unsafe.

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

He claims the fire investigator concluded the fire started in an engine compartment.

Sharwell 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.

    Sharwell 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 their 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 complaint states.

    Sharwell claims 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 complaint, Ford recalled Crown Victoria's, Lincoln Town Cars and Mercury Grand Marquises manufactured from 1992-93.

    Sharwell claims 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.

    He claims 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.

    Sharwell claims he and the putative class members have been damaged and suffered monetary losses because they suffered or will suffer loss of the use of their Ford vehicles while it is being repaired and additional damages for the damage or destruction of their vehicle due to fire.

    He claims the statues 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.

    Sharwell and the class are seeking an amount to be determined at trial, plus punitive damages in an amount be proven at trial.

    They are represented by Jeffrey Lowe of St. Louis. The case has been assigned to District Judge William Stiehl.

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