Ford Motor Co. Hit with Class Action Suit

February 18, 2005

Motley Rice LLC of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and Boston-based Thornton & Naumes LLP, announced the filing of a class action in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts against Ford Motor Company, Ford
Motor Company of Canada Ltd., Magna Donnelly Corp., Intier Automotive Seating of America Inc. and Intier Automotive Closures of America (d/b/a Dortec Industries) for reportedly designing, manufacturing, installing, supplying, selling and distributing outside door handles systems that do not comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 206, Canadian Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standard (CMVSS) 206 or even Ford’s internal standards.

The defect in the doors is alleged to cause unintended door openings and passenger ejectment in accidents. Passenger ejectments are the leading cause of serious injuries and death in motor vehicle accidents.

The claim alleges that outside door handles and their component parts are defective in the following vehicles:
* 1997 – 2000 Ford F-150
* 1997 – 2000 Ford F-250 -Super Light Duty
* 1997 – 2000 Ford Expedition
* 2000 Ford F150 Super Crew

The claim alleges that Ford violated numerous Mass. Gen. Laws such as: unfair methods of competition and unfair/ deceptive acts and practices, conspiracy and concert of action to violate the law, breach of express and implied warranty and unjust enrichment. It is alleged that by October of 1995, Ford had knowledge of the defect.

During crash testing, it was observed that, upon impact, the impacted side door would open and subsequent testing revealed both impacted and non-impacted doors can open. In August 1997, Transport Canada conducted testing on the Ford F150. A Transport Canada video, provided to Ford, shows the non-impacted side door opening on impact.

In March 2000, internal corporate documents that tested sub components, specifically the outside door handles, reportedly showed outside handle operating forces were below values specified in the federal regulations designed to keep doors closed in accidents. Federal regulations require door handles be able to withstand 30 G’s of inertial force on impact.

In mid-March 2000, Ford engineers recommended that a safety-related campaign be instituted to correct the spring torque for the affected latches. However, seven days later, the safety campaign was cancelled.

The action claims that Ford, Ford Canada and the manufacturing defendants manipulated data, internal specifications, federal rules and violated commonly accepted practices in order to avoid the purchaser notification and recall requirements that FMVSS non-compliance triggers. To date, consumers have not been notified and a recall has not been issued.

It is estimated that there may be as many as 4,400,000 vehicles with alleged defective door latches in the U.S. and Canada. Deaths and serious personal injuries have been reported and are the subjects of numerous lawsuits in the United States including a trial scheduled to begin next week in U.S. District Court in Florence, South Carolina. Motley Rice LLC and Ed Bell Law Firm are trying that action.

Other class action lawsuits against Ford for similar door latch failures have already been filed in Alabama, Canada, Florida and North Carolina.

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