Ignition-part Suit Targets Millions of Ford Vehicles Nationwide - Deseret News - October 14, 2000

Ignition-part Suit Targets Millions of Ford Vehicles Nationwide
Deseret News
October 14, 2000

CHICAGO -- Ford Motor Corp. is facing another lawsuit by consumers who contend the world's No. 2 automaker should recall millions of vehicles nationwide due to a defective ignition part that can cause stalling, lawyers said.

The suit, which seeks class-action status, follows a California judge's order this week that Ford recall 1.7 million cars and trucks. Among the models covered by the first court-ordered recall in the industry's history were 1983 to 1995 Escorts, Mustangs and Tauruses, as well as Bronco SUVs, Aerostar minivans and Ranger trucks.

Ford already faces similar ignition parts lawsuits in Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, Maryland and Washington state. Some of those cases press for statewide recalls, some for national recalls.

"Ford knew that the vehicles were prone to stall, but failed to alert its consumers of the dangerous condition," lawyers for the plaintiffs said in a statement. Chicago attorney Kenneth B. Moll, who filed the suit in an Illinois state court, claims the company failed to alert consumers of a stalling defect.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," said Jim Cain, a spokesman from Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford spokesman. Cain said the vehicles don't have any ignition flaws and that the company has not hid any information from consumers. "The notion of a massive stalling problem is a myth."

The Problem

Plaintiffs claim the company placed thick-film ignition modules near the hottest part of the vehicles' engine, which caused the cars and trucks to stall.

The ignition-part cases come as Ford contends with public relations and legal problems over a recall of 6.5 million Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tires, many of which were mounted on Explorer sport utility vehicles.

In ordering the recall, Alameda Superior Court Judge Michael Ballachey did not set a date, instead naming a referee to decide how it will proceed and how much Ford should pay in reimbursements to Californians who have owned or leased the vehicles.

Stalls caused by the TFI module have led to deaths or serious injuries, attorneys representing the California plaintiffs said. Ford has kept information on those incidents confidential by settling private lawsuits and demanding the return of discovery materials, they added.

Auto-Safety Law

Ford, which says it hasn't used the module since 1995, points to government reports that show its vehicles are just as safe as vehicles with other ignition systems.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress passed auto-safety legislation that gives federal regulators more power to obtain product-defect information and punish violators. The bill extends the authority of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to collect "early warning" information and open new investigations.