Two Houston lawyers have filed suit against Ford, charging that a defective cruise-control module ignited fires that destroyed their clients' vehicles and the home of a Galveston family. Ford is recalling about 800,000 2000-model F-150 trucks, Expedition and Navigator SUVs because of the problem.
The suit charges that fire investigators determined the 2002 Galveston house fire started inside a 1997 Ford F-150 pickup that was parked under the beachfront home. Its engine was turned off at the time of the fire, which began without warning.
That is typical of the pattern surrounding many of the fires in Ford F-150 and related vehicles.
"The majority of the fires happened when the car is not in use and the vehicle is turned off. The reason it catches fire is because it's hot-wired like an onboard computer or clock. It has a hot line going to it 24/7," Houston-area attorney Norman Jolly told Houston's KPRC-TV.
Jolly said all the cases he's representing are Ford F-Series trucks of different years, up to and including 2000 models. He also said the vehicles were not in use when the explosion occurred.
Jolly is suing Ford on behalf of Charles Everts, whose pickup caught on fire because of the switch, which burned his Tiki Island home to the ground.
"My 1997 Ford XLT Lariat pickup after being turned off for several hours while parked under my home in Tiki Island caught fire and totally destroyed my home and all me and my wife owned," Everts said in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs.com. "Killed one dog but my Labrador Sarah was able to leap over our deck railing and down 20 feet into a canal saving her life."
"Thank God we were not at home when the fired occurred or I would not be able to write this letter," he said.
Another plaintiff in the suit, Marley Garcia, said he woke up to a popping noise from his garage and found his Ford Expedition in flames. The ceiling os his garage was already on fire as he began pushing the vehicle outside, he said.
"I knew if (the vehicle) burned any more, it would burn my house down and kill me and my family," Garcia told the station. "I don't know how I did it. I couldn't see anything either. Everything was just black. I was going by feel."
Despite numerous incidents in older vehicles, Ford and NHTSA are concentrating their investigation and the recall on 2000-year models.
Jolly told the station that the NHTSA's investigation is currently only investigating problems with the recalled vehicles even though they have received complaints on older model Ford trucks and SUVs.
"We can see, clearly, the fire in this 2000 Expedition was starting right there in the switch -- the same switch that's installed on numerous Ford vehicles," Jolly said.