Flat Top residents file federal suit against Ford

By Audrey Holsclaw | Jul 31, 2008

A 1993 Mercury Marquis.

BECKLEY -- A Mercer County couple has filed a suit against Ford Motor Company after their automobile burst into flames and injured them.

Carroll and Raymond Pedigo of Flat Top have filed a potential class-action complaint against Ford Motor Company after a faulty speed control deactivation (SCD) switch caused their 1993 Mercury Marquis to catch fire while being driven, resulting in an accident.

In the suit filed July 22, the Pedigos state that Carroll Pedigo was driving on July 23, 2006, when, without warning, the Marquis burst into flames. The flames scared her so badly that she lost control of the car, struck a tree and was thrown from the vehicle. Carroll Pedigo was hospitalized for an extended period of time because of the fire and collision and had extreme pain, suffering, and emotional distress following the accident.

Because of the extended hospitalization, the Pedigos faced substantial medical bills and lost income, and Raymond Pedigo lost the consortium of his wife because of her injuries.

According to the suit, filed by John Wooton, Micheal Caddell, Cynthia Chapman and Cory Fein of the Houston firm of Caddell & Chapman, the first recall for the 1993 Marquis, as well as several other Ford vehicles, was issued in 1999 after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 65 fires caused by the failure of the SCD switch or its related circuitry. The recall consisted of replacing the switch with an identical switch and without adding a fused wiring harness.

The Pedigos allege that Ford knew that there were serious problems with the design, manufacturing, and placement of the SCD switch, but continued to use the SCD switch anyway.

If a fused wiring harness is not used, the switch can overheat because of a resistive short. The SCD switch typically is mounted on the brake proportioning valve is instead mounted in the master cylinder at an angle. This angle allows metallic corrosion to settle in such a way that dendrite growth can occur. This dendrite growth changes the switch electrical resistance and the switch's electrical current carrying capacity increases. The increase causes temperatures to rise so high that it causes an open flame.

The SCD switch is also located as part of a circuit that always has electricity flowing through it -- even with the ignition off.
If a fused wiring harness is not used, the switch can overheat because of a resistive short.

Since 1999, Ford has recalled other vehicles utilizing the SCD switch six times. In January 2005, 740,451 vehicles were recalled; in September 2005, 4.3 million; in August 2006, just after Carroll's accident, 1.2 million; in March 2007, 155,000; in August 2007, 3.6 million; and finally in January 2008, 225,000 vehicles were recalled -- including the 1993 Marquis.

The Pedigos believe Ford is liable for its actions regarding the SCD switch and the resulting fire and accident and is also negligent for failing to exercise ordinary care in designing, marketing, manufacturing, and selling the Marquis.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, the suit states that the Pedigos are seeking a trial by jury to award monetary damages for the destruction of their Marquis, inconvenience and disruption of their work and activities resulting from the fire, mental anguish, and personal injury. They are also seeking punitive damages and litigation costs.

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