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A lawsuit has been filed against Ford Motor Co. on behalf of all Montgomery County police departments that own or lease Ford’s Crown Victoria. The suit alleges that Crown Victoria police cruisers contain defective gas tanks that are prone to explosion upon rear impact and seeks class action status for all police departments in Pennsylvania that use the Ford cruisers. The suit was filed Monday in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania. Edward Rubin, the head of the litigation department of Hamburg Rubin Mullin Maxwell & Lupin, filed Montgomery Township Police Department v. Ford Motor Co. on behalf of Montgomery County police departments and all the county’s political subdivisions that use the cars. “The gas tanks of the Crown Victoria are behind the rear axle — a location which is unsuitable for police vehicles which stop along road shoulders to direct traffic or help motorists and are susceptible to rear-end impacts,” Rubin said. The suit raises strict liability, breach of warranty and negligence claims, and alleges that the cars were improperly designed, that the gas tanks were improperly designed and located, that the tanks are designed so that certain bolts and metal tabs can rip the tanks, and that the tanks do not have sufficient guards or other protective devices. The suit also says that Ford has not responded to complaints from other police departments about serious injuries and deaths that have occurred as a result of gas tanks igniting after a rear-end collision and that, despite these complaints, Ford has not modified the design of the car. According to the complaint, Ford could instead place the gas tanks above or in front of the back axle. The suit seeks either a recall of all Crown Victorias used by police in Montgomery County, with payment for vehicle replacement, or payment for the cost of moving the gas tanks on existing cars. The original suit only asked for class action status for all political subdivisions and police departments in Montgomery County, but, Rubin said, after speaking with several police chiefs throughout Pennsylvania, a new complaint was filed requesting class action status for all police departments in Pennsylvania that use the Crown Victoria cruiser. Rubin said he was optimistic that class action status would be granted. “I think this is a classic case where a class action should apply because the modifications might cost $300 or $400 per vehicle,” Rubin said. “It doesn’t make sense for any one township of borough to bring suit and to fight Ford for that amount for five or six vehicles. If they are all joined together, it makes a lot more sense … because the cost will be spread against the entire commonwealth.” The suit is part of a growing concern, Rubin said, about the safety of the vehicles. The police department in Phoenix recently recalled an order for 200 Crown Victorias, and a New Jersey suit asked that Ford be mandated to reimburse police departments for modifying the vehicles, he said. Nueces County, Texas, has also filed a similar suit. “I think that the public should demand that the police officers be protected, and that the townships and boroughs should do whatever they can to protect their officers,” Rubin said. “This is a public safety issue, and this should be a public concern.” Ford sells 80,000 Crown Victoria cruisers annually and controls about 85 percent of the police cruiser market.

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