Automaker allegedly knew about defect, delayed issuing recall and neglected to provide real fix in half a million cars
Owners of 2020-23 Ford Escapes and 2021-23 Bronco Sports with 1.5-liter engines have filed a class-action lawsuit against Ford Motor Company for allegedly violating consumer protection laws by selling cars equipped with faulty fuel injectors that can cause spontaneous fires and subsequently neglecting to implement an appropriate fix, according to Hagens Berman.
The complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, states that more than 500,000 vehicles are subject to a recall Ford issued in November 2022, after 54 fires had been reported in the affected vehicles, 17 of which have been confirmed as likely the result of a cracked fuel injector. Two of these fires resulted in injuries.
The complaint states Ford knew about or should have known about this defect before the vehicles ever went to market, and the automaker took steps to deliberately conceal it in order to make sales and, later on, avoid the cost and bad press associated with a recall. And even once Ford did issue a recall, it failed to provide its customers with any sort of meaningful redress, leaving them with vehicles that pose serious environmental and safety hazards.
“An automaker’s number one priority should always be safety,” said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman and attorney seeking to represent consumers in this case. “A defect that results in fire is intolerable and once Ford became aware of fires Ford should have made full disclosure of the fire risk before selling any more cars or just stopped selling.”
Ford Throws Fuel on the Fire
The more than half a million cars at risk for spontaneous fires are equipped with fuel injectors that are dangerously prone to cracking. Cracks in an injector result in fuel accumulating on and around the exhaust system, where it can combust and lead to fires under the hood, and the November recall report states that gasoline can leak from these vehicles at a staggering rate of 19 liters per hour.
Ford’s response to this severe defect was to issue a “fix” which, rather than repairing or replacing faulty fuel injectors, creates additional safety risks by diverting leaked gasoline to the roadway beneath the vehicle or to the floors of owners’ garages, setting the stage for environmental issues, further injuries and property damage.
Ford repeatedly provided consumers with false assurances about the safety of their vehicles to make sales and obfuscate the defect, the complaint alleges. Additionally, the automaker has offered no reimbursement to owners for out-of-pocket repair costs, the loss of use of their vehicles or loss of vehicle value. It has also neglected to provide consumers with a comparable loaner vehicle that they can use while the automaker works on implementing a real fix.
Owners made warranty claims related to this defect as early as September 2020. But Ford did not issue a recall on affected Escapes or Bronco Sports until March 2022—a recall which, the automaker itself admits, was inadequate, as it did not address the fuel injector defect at all and dealt only with damaged oil separators. By continuing to sell these vehicles after receiving numerous reports of spontaneous fires and leaking fuel injectors, Ford violated consumer protection laws, the complaint alleges. And, attorneys further argue, the automaker ought to have already been aware of the defect prior to receiving any complaints, on account of the rigorous premarket testing to which all vehicles are subject.
“Ford’s response to the fallout of this dangerous defect is inadequate. Ford can’t just add a hose to divert fuel out to the ground and call that a fix for a faulty fuel injector,” said Berman. “It had a responsibility to respond immediately and be transparent with consumers as soon as it became aware of reports of fires. Instead, it chose to hide the truth from its customers and flout the terms of its own warranty.”
The lawsuit brings charges of violating the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment and violation of state consumer protection laws.
Hagens Berman is a global plaintiffs’ rights complex litigation law firm with a tenacious drive for achieving actual results for those harmed by corporate negligence and fraud. Since its founding in 1993, the firm’s determination has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.