Now 22 customers suing Ford over 2021 Expedition, Lincoln Navigator fire issue
What began as three unhappy owners of 2021 Ford Expedition and 2021 Lincoln Navigator vehicles has ballooned to 22 plaintiffs including one from the automaker's home state of Michigan in a lawsuit filed this month against Ford Motor Co.
The plaintiffs say the Dearborn automaker failed to disclose a defect causing spontaneous under-hood fires in at least 66,000 vehicles when parked or running and that asking customers to drive defective vehicles while waiting for a fix is unreasonable.
The Seattle-based Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro law firm amended the filing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to add 19 plaintiffs to the original three and also respond to Ford's expanded recall.
Ford has said it is not aware of injuries related to the problem.
The latest filing includes photos and video of a fire provided by Paul Rich of Canby, Oregon, who purchased a 2021 Ford Expedition XLT in March 2022 and says it caught fire while parked in front of his home in June. The vehicle was built in December 2021, falling outside the original or expanded recall dates.
The amended lawsuit says Rich never received a recall notice or warning from Ford, apparently because Ford has yet to expand the safety recall regarding the spontaneous fire defect to include 2021 models, like his, that were built in December of that year.
And it still isn't covered by the expanded recall.
Vehicles in question were built between July 27, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021. The original recall covered vehicles built between Dec. 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021.
Fortunately, a passerby saw the fire and called the local fire department, which extinguished the blaze before it spread to Rich’s home. The pictures taken immediately after the fire show where the fire burned the battery junction box and spread to the car’s exterior.
Ford spokesman Said Deep declined to comment to the Free Press on pending litigation Tuesday, citing company policy.
“While it is positive news that Ford believes it has found its manufacturing defect that is behind at least 21 dangerous spontaneous fires in its luxury vehicles, at the same time, Ford has now admitted that this defect affects at least 66,000 vehicles still covered under warranty,” Steve Berman, Hagens Berman co-founder and managing partner, said in a news release Tuesday. “Ford claims to have designed a fix, yet admits it only has parts for a small subset of the affected vehicles, and the timeline Ford presents is at best several months in the future for most vehicles to be repaired.”
He added, “Ford has also failed to provide any substitute vehicles or compensation for those who choose not to assume the risk of fire to continue using their vehicle."
Ford has acknowledged that fires are caused by a manufacturing defect in a battery junction box, and has advised customers to park away from structures while waiting for the part, the law firm noted.
What is safe?
“The implication of Ford’s response is outrageous, essentially telling its own customers, ‘Yes, your car may catch fire in the middle of the night or while you’re away, so park it somewhere that will be a good place to have it engulfed in flames.’ How far from one’s home is a ‘safe’ distance to have a vehicle fire, exactly?” Berman said.
“Ford’s investigation of this defect appears inadequate," he said, noting customers have paid more than $50,000 for these SUVs.
“While they wait for Ford to actually install a fix, affected owners are stuck with expensive vehicles that they can only use if they assume a risk of fire, and can’t park at their homes or work or near anything flammable,” Berman said.
The lawsuit began with these 2021 model owners and lessees:
- Jessica Stahlman of Mount Dora, Florida (Expedition)
- Jeremy Sessler of Seaford, New York (Navigator)
- Ronald "RJ" Smith of Raleigh, North Carolina (Navigator)
The amended lawsuit now includes Michael Mehling of Rockford, Michigan, an Expedition owner, as well as:
- Julie Huntley of Texarkana, Arkansas (Expedition)
- Lewis Hampton of El Dorado Hills, California (Expedition)
- Jeff Swanson of Berthoud, Colorado (Navigator)
- Scott Barber of Bozrah, Connecticut (Expedition)
- Anthony Caito of Naples, Florida (Expedition)
- Miranda Hanley of Stone Mountain, Georgia (Expedition)
- William A. Head III of Bremen, Georgia (Expedition)
- Clifford "Greg” Mason of Decatur, Illinois (Navigator)
- Richard Rezko of Westmont, Illinois (Expedition)
- Kathleen Holm of Big Fork, Montana (Expedition)
- Kelly Ernest of Belgrade, Montana (Expedition)
- Nancy Mammel of Santa Fe, New Mexico (Navigator)
- Kuya Machanja of Powell, Ohio (Expedition)
- Lisa Kuhn of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (Expedition)
- Amber Sulligan of Broomall, Pennsylvania (Expedition)
- Jorge Romo of The Woodlands, Texas (Navigator)
- Manuel Amores of Spring, Texas (Expedition)
Ford CEO Jim Farley has said consistently since taking the helm in October 2020 that product quality and reducing recall and warranty costs were top priorities. He hired quality czar Josh Halliburton earlier this year.