Ford hit with federal class action alleging faulty switches on F-150 XLTs

By Steve Gonzalez | Oct 18, 2007

Gary Medrano of Woodbridge, Va. filed a 10-count class action complaint against Ford Motor Company in United States District Court Oct. 15, alleging his 2000 Ford F-150 XLT caught fire because of a faulty cruise control switch.

Represented by Jeffrey Lowe of St. Louis, Medrano claims his truck caught fire on Oct. 16, 2006, and after the fire was extinguished the fire department concluded that the fire was caused by a defect in the cruise control deactivation switch.

Medrano claims he immediately contacted Ford and alleges the company told him since the fire was so bad they would not be able to offer any assistance to him.

According to Medrano, the Ford vehicles in question are defective and unsafe for one or more of the following reasons:

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

  • Even though the cruise control deactivation switch requires only a half amp of power to operate, Ford designed the vehicles so that the switches continually received 15 amps of power;

  • 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 resistive short to ground;

  • Vacuum pressure generated by the Ford vehicle's brake system caused the Kapton orientation to invert or "oil can" and ultimately fatigue and wear out much sooner than if the diaphragm had only experienced pressure applications in one direction; and

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

    "The SCD switch, located in a circuit that is powered at all times regardless of whether the vehicle's ignition is in the on position, creates a significant fire risk not only to the Ford vehicles, but also the garages and houses in which the Ford vehicles are parked," the complaint states.

    Medrano also claims prior to manufacturing the vehicles, Ford knew there were problems with the design, manufacture, and placement of the SCD switch used in their vehicles, but used the same or similar design anyway.

    According to the suit, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports indicate that at least 218 similar events of fires from cruise control deactivation switches in Ford vehicles have been reported and by June 22, 2005, at least 65 fires were confirmed by NHTSA to have been caused the failure of the SCD switch.

    "On May 13, 1999, because of the fire problems with the SCD switch, Ford voluntarily recalled over 250,000 Ford vehicles," the complaint states.

    Medrano claims model years 1992 and 1993 Ford Crown Victorias, Lincoln Town Cars and Mercury Grand Marquises were included in the recall.

    He also claims the Ford had a second recall on Jan. 27, 2005, that included 740,451 vehicles.

    Model year 2000 Ford F-150, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator and 2001 Ford Super Cabs were involved in the second recall.

    According to the complaint, for the third time on Sept. 7, 2005, Ford recalled 4,297,461 vehicles and as part of the recall Ford instructed owners to take their vehicles to a dealership where the cruise control function will be disabled to avoid fires until the replacement parts were made available.

    Medrano claims that he and the class have been damaged and suffered a monetary loss by paying for a Ford vehicle that was defective and not safe.

    He also claims he and the class suffered or will suffer an inconvenience and disruption of their work or activities at the time the defective SCD switch is replaced.

    Medrano further claims some Ford owners suffered additional damage due to fire including destruction of their vehicle, damage to property, disruption of life, and in some cases physical injury and death.

    According to Medrano, he is a putative class representative with claims that are typical of each class member and that his interests coincide with the interests of the other class members.

    He is seeking a judgment in excess of $5 million, plus punitive damages, attorney fees and costs of the suit.

    The case has been assigned to District Judge G. Patrick Murphy.

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