Lawsuit filed against Ford for alleged defective door latches

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against Ford (in Canada and the U.S.), Magna International, Magna Donnelly, Dortec Industries, Intier Automotive Inc., and Atoma Latching Systems Group.

The claim alleges that defective door latches have been installed on the following vehicles: 1997-2000 Ford F-150s; 1997-2000 Ford F-250 Super Light Duty; 1997-2000 Ford Expeditions; and 1997-2000 Lincoln Navigator and Blackwood.

The claim alleges that the defective door latches can open in a side impact crash or rollover accident. Deaths and serious personal injuries have been reported and are the subject of a number of lawsuits in the United States.

The claim seeks the cost to replace all defective door latches throughout the country. It is estimated that the cost would be approximately $1,300 for a four-door vehicle. In the U.S., there may be as many as four million vehicles with defective door latches. It is estimated that there may be 300,000 to 400,000 Ford vehicles in Canada with the defective door latch. On behalf of the class, a claim for punitive damages in the sum of $527 million is being advanced.

According to the lawsuit, Ford had knowledge of the defect that can be traced back to October 1995 when Ford was conducting fuel line integrity tests on the Lincoln Navigator prototype. During the testing, it was observed that the impacted side door would open during crash testing.

In August 1997, Transport Canada conducted side impact crash testing of a Ford F-150. A Transport Canada video, which was given to Ford, shows the non-impacted side door opening on impact at a speed of 32 kph.

Subsequently, Ford established the Critical Concern Review Group to investigate the door opening issue. In March 2000, internal Ford documents reveal that tested sub-components, specifically the outside door handles, revealed outside handle operating forces that were below values specified on the outside handle torsion spring drawing. Investigation at the handle supplier facility, Donnelly Corporation, showed that the installed spring torque was consistently below the required standards.

The lawsuit says that Ford's engineers believed that the F-150 door latches and handles did not comply with Federal safety standards. In mid-March 2000, Ford engineers recommended that a safety-related NHTSA recall campaign be instituted to fix the defective door latches. However, seven days later, the recall was cancelled.

The claim details the level of knowledge that Ford and the sub-contractors had over the years leading up to the commencement of this lawsuit.

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