The DiCello Law Firm is helping lead the way in a recently filed class action lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company. The case is filed in the Southern District of West Virginia: Belville v. Ford Motor Company, case number 2:13-cv-11111.
We hope this lawsuit sheds light on this important situation and requires Ford to correct its ways, compensate its customers and put them first
USA Today and others reported the event. You can read the entire USA Today article below.
Lawsuit: Older Fords Can Suddenly Speed Up
Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY - Posted on March 28, 2013
A multistate lawsuit filed Thursday says 2002-10 Ford Motor vehicles contain a "design defect" in the electronic control of the gas pedals, making them susceptible to sudden, unintended acceleration.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Ford owners in 14 states is seeking class-action status and goes into great detail about the alleged defect in the models named in the lawsuit that don't have brake override technology. That technology stops the car if both the brake and the gas pedal are activated at the same time. Ford began installing it, known as "brake over accelerator," in all vehicles it makes in 2010.
"For too long, Ford has put its own financial interests ahead of its consumers' safety," says Chicago-based attorney Adam Levitt, one of the lawyers leading the litigation. "We hope this lawsuit sheds light on this important situation and requires Ford to correct its ways, compensate its customers and put them first."
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages for the lost value of the affected cars -- the difference between what they paid for the cars vs. the value of the defective vehicles. The lawsuit also asks Ford to "fix the problem."
Lawyers involved in the case told USA TODAY in late March that most Ford owners probably don't realize their cars could take off on their own.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the southern district of West Virginia. It cites a 2011 report by the Transportation Department's inspector general that showed Ford had the same number of deaths and injuries from these electronic throttle controls as Toyota: 374 from 2003 through 2009. Ford had 22% of all complaints of unintended acceleration during that period, more than any of the other major auto manufacturers, the report said.
A review of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's data shows complaints regarding sudden acceleration in Ford vehicles (including Lincolns and Mercurys) soared from 2005 to 2007, with injuries due to sudden acceleration at their highest rates from 2004 to 2006.
But Ford released a statement Thursday that said: "NHTSA has investigated alleged unintended accelerations many times over many years and has concluded that driver error is the predominant cause of these events. NHTSA's work is far more scientific and trustworthy than work done by personal injury lawyers and their paid experts. In rare situations, vehicle factors, such as floor mats or broken mechanical components, can interfere with proper throttle operation, and manufacturers have addressed these rare events in field service actions."
Tom Murray, a Sandusky, Ohio, plaintiff lawyer who is writing a book on unintended acceleration, says Ford's failure to install brake override means the company didn't have a "fail safe" to protect people if the cars took off on their own. Murray says he has several clients who were in crashes involving runaway Fords.
Toyota recalled nearly 8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the U.S. in 2009 and 2010 over problems related to gas pedals that could stick and floor mats that could interfere with the gas pedal. The months of publicity and congressional hearings helped prompt the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to propose a rule requiring all vehicles to have brake override.
But plaintiff lawyers continue to insist that there were problems with Toyota's electronic throttle controls that made even some recalled cars take off on their own.
"We learned from Toyota that these problems are real," says Mark DiCello, a Cleveland plaintiff attorney involved with the new lawsuit.
However, NHTSA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration concluded in a 2011 report that it could not find evidence of electronic malfunctions in Toyota models.
"It's easy not to believe sudden acceleration exists unless you're behind the wheel when it takes off," says West Virginia plaintiff lawyer Niall Paul.
"Ford has a long history of these cars taking off in various points," says Edgar "Hike" Heiskell, a West Virginia plaintiff lawyer involved in the litigation. "It's obviously a dangerous situation."
He points to the decisions by BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen to install brake override several years ago.
Tom Baloga, BMW's recently retired vice president of engineering, says it wasn't sudden acceleration, however, but the perception of it that prompted German automakers to install brake override.
"German auto manufacturers realized that identifying driver-caused sudden acceleration was a PR disaster so they agreed among themselves to adopt their own type of brake-accelerator override with electronic gas pedals," Baloga says. "This voluntary initiative adapted to U.S. conditions where technical circumstances and emotional reactions blur investigations."
"Qualified investigators" have repeatedly dismissed the idea that "electronic gremlins" are causing sudden acceleration, Baloga says, "but the emotional component keeps coming back."
Asked whether they are going to sue other major automakers over the models with electronic throttle control that don't have brake override, the lawyers say they hope they don't have to.
"We hope this would cause the other manufacturers to do what's right and what's safe," Paul says.
Owners of these Ford models with electronic throttle control are considered plaintiffs in the lawsuit if the vehicles were purchased in any of these states: West Virginia, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia or Wisconsin.
- Ford brand: 2005-2009 Crown Victoria, 2005-2010 E-Series, 2007-2010 Edge, 2009-2010 Escape, 2005-2010 Escape HEV, 2005-2010 Expedition, 2004-2010 Explorer, 2007-2010 Explorer Sport Trac, 2004-2010 F-Series, 2005-2007 Five Hundred, 2009-2010 Flex, 2008-2010 Focus, 2005-2007 Freestyle, 2006-2010 Fusion, 2005-2010 Mustang, 2008-2010 Taurus, 2008-2009 Taurus X, 2002-2005 Thunderbird, and 2010 Transit Connect
- Lincoln brand: 2003-2006 LS, 2006-2008 Mark LT, 2009-2010 MKS, 2010 MKT, 2007-2010 MKX, 2006-2010 MKZ, 2005-2009 Town Car, and 2006-2010 Zephy
- Mercury brand: 2002-2005 Cougar (XR7), 2005-2009 Grand Marquis, 2009-2010 Mariner, 2005-2010 Mariner HEV, 2006-2010 Milan, 2005-2007 Montego, 2004-2010Mountaineer, and 2008-2010 Sable