Major Victory in Explorer Class Action Litigation

Owners of rollover-prone Ford Explorers scored a major victory Nov. 28 when Ford Motor Co. agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by consumers. About a million people in Texas, Illinois, Connecticut and California had alleged that their SUVs were prone to roll over, which hurt their value because of the actual or perceived danger. They sued Ford for false advertising, claiming the company knew Explorers had an unsafe tendency to roll over when they advertised them as safe family vehicles.

The settlement allows owners of the millions of suspect Explorers, which are model years 1991 to 2001, to apply for a $500 voucher for a new Explorer, or a $300 voucher toward another Ford or Lincoln Mercury product. Ford must also disclose the Explorer’s safety problems and limit its claims that the vehicle is safe. The settlement resolves all of the false advertising litigation aimed at Ford Explorers and their original defective Bridgestone/Firestone tires. However, many other claims have been filed by people who’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one in an actual Ford Explorer rollover accident. Those lawsuits continue.

In both types of claim, the trouble stems from design defects in the SUVs and in their tires. By now, it’s well known that some SUVs, including the Ford Explorer, are unreasonably likely to tip over because of their high centers of gravity. That problem was compounded by the Explorer’s using Bridgestone/Firestone tires, which were likely to fall apart in a way that experts call tire tread separation. The tire’s first layer of rubber literally peels off in a tire tread separation, exposing the steel belting underneath. Sudden separations can cause tire blowouts or loss of driver control — quickly leading to a deadly accident, especially when the blowout happens at high speeds. This combination of defective tires and defective vehicle affected millions of vehicles throughout the 1990s, causing at least 250 deaths and hundreds more injuries, according to the Associated Press.

SUVs are often marketed as safe, family-friendly vehicles, but the statistics show that they’re actually much more likely to roll over than other passenger vehicles. Research from the federal Department of Transportation shows that SUVs were involved in about 13% of all fatal crashes in 2005, whereas cars were involved in 42%. But when you look at those number for fatal rollover accidents only, SUV involvement jumps to 35.4%, while cars drop down to 16.4%. Rollover accidents are so deadly because they throw occupants violently around the inside of the SUV, significantly raising the chances of brain or spinal injuries, contact with jagged metal or glass or being thrown from the vehicle.

Buried in this story is an important fact: Ford knew its vehicles were unsafe long before it took any action to protect its customers. Unfortunately, this is a trend that is repeated throughout the auto industry, which often decides it’s cheaper to settle a few lawsuits than initiate a life-saving recall. If you’re a victim of these unsafe, unethical business practices, you have rights. Call The Louthian Law Firm today to discuss an auto accident lawsuit or product defects claim.