HUNTINGTON – Ford Motor Company has filed a response to a class action lawsuit that alleges its vehicles suffer from sudden acceleration problems.
Ford is moving to dismiss the lawsuit, filed earlier this year in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and is seeking to have certain “objectionable” paragraphs in the complaint stricken.
Ford filed the motions on June 27 in the first of two class actions that have been filed in the court. The company is seeking to have them consolidated.
The class actions do not allege any physical injuries. Instead, they say purchasers of Ford vehicles would not have bought them – or paid as much - if they knew the vehicles had sudden acceleration problems.
“Plaintiffs seek a court-ordered recall and monetary damages in connection with nearly every Ford Motor Company vehicle sold in the United States between 2002 and 2010… because the vehicles lack a particular driver-assistance feature referred to as Brake Over Accelerator or Brake-Throttle Override, which depowers the engine if the gas pedal is trapped by a floor mat and the driver engages the brake,” the memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss says.
“Notably, as conceded by Plaintiffs, a BTO feature does not prevent an unwanted acceleration resulting from a trapped gas pedal, but it may assist the driver in overcoming such a situation if it does occur.
“Although Ford never marketed the vehicles at issue as having a BTO feature, Plaintiffs contend that its absence from their vehicles dimishes their value, and that Ford’s failure to disclose that absence was fraudulent.”
The two complaints include plaintiffs from several states who purchased a variety of Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles. Several attorneys nationwide combined efforts on the complaint.
From West Virginia are Niall A. Paul of Spilman Thomas & Battle in Charleston; Guy Bucci, Timothy Bailey and Lee Javins of Bucci Bailey & Javins in Charleston; and Edgar F. Heiskell III of Charleston.
The paragraphs Ford finds “objectionable” allege that in the 1980s, the company intentionally disposed of internal reports regarding sudden acceleration events and that it concealed the information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Ford says those allegations have already been rejected by the NHTSA and a Florida appellate court.
“Second, the allegations are simply irrelevant to Plaintiffs’ claims and, therefore, immaterial and impertinent,” the memorandum in support says.
“The allegations in the Objectionable Paragraphs are scandalous, injurious to Ford’s reputation, and have no bearing on Plaintiffs’ present claims. The allegations are clearly designed only to inflame the jury and the public.
“Moreover, the continued presence of these objectionable allegations of decades-old conduct will prejudice Ford by requiring extensive and unnecessary expenditures of resources in litigation.”
The out-of-state firms on the second complaint are: Grant & Eisenhofer of Chicago; The DiCello Law Firm of Mentor, Ohio; Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny of Leawood, Kan.; Murray and Murray of Sandusky, Ohio; Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley of West Palm Beach, Fla.; Siprut P.C. of Chicago; Bremer, Whyte, Brown & O’Meara of Newport Beach, Calif.; The Miller Law Firm of Rochester, Mich.; Davis, Bethune & Jones of Kansas City, Mo.; Isaac, Wiles, Burkholder & Teetor of Columbus, Ohio; Gomez & Iagmin of San Diego; Laffey, Bucci & Kent of Philadelphia.
The last three firms listed were not on the March complaint.
Grant & Eisenhofer filed another class action in California federal court over Ford’s MyFord Touch, a dashboard interface that allows the vehicle owner to operate the audio systems, GPS navigation, climate systems and a Bluetooth enabled mobile device.
The lawsuit claims MyFord Touch has been plagued with serious defects.
Adam Levitt, a director with Grant & Eisenhofer and head of the firm’s Consumer Practice group, said: “The MyFord Touch problems in Ford vehicles are legion and now well-documented. Had consumers known about the numerous and widespread issues with the system in Ford’s cars, they would not have purchased or leased these vehicles. We intend to see that they are properly compensated for defective systems, and will call on Ford take affirmative steps to see that customers’ expectations are met.”
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.