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A Note on Automobile Cruise Control Faults and Sudden or Unintended Acceleration

by Dr Antony Anderson C.Eng FIEE/FIET

9.5 SUDDEN ACCELERATION INCIDENTS, RECALLS AND LITIGATION

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  FORD SUDDEN ACCELERATION INCIDENTS
  • Feb 25th 2013 Feds probe engine stalling problem in Ford SUVs, Sedans. Consumer Affairs - "Limp Home" mode is just what its name implies NHTSA says it wil investigate problems with stalling and surging engines in nearly 725,000 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUVs and Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans from 2009 through 2011 model years.                                                                              
  • July 27th 2011 Florida court accuses Ford Motor Co. of hiding deadly sudden acceleration glitch - For the first time, a Florida court has found validity in decades of complaints by drivers that faulty electronics can cause their cars to rocket out of control. In doing so, a 5th Circuit Court judge has accused Ford Motor Co. of hiding or destroying records of its own engineers' concerns about sudden acceleration caused by electronics — instead blaming accidents on drivers inadvertently hitting the gas pedal. If upheld, one attorney predicted thousands of old cases brought by drivers of runaway cars could be reopened.  St Petersburg Times Also see Court Order for Stimpson v. Ford Motor Co., 2004-CA-13, Circuit Court for Sumter County, Florida (Bushnell).

South Carolina's highest court on Monday overturned an $18 million verdict against Ford Motor Co. in a fatal crash, ruling that one expert shouldn't have been allowed to testify about cruise-control problems. SC Supreme Court Opinion
      • August 7th 2006 Greenville, SC  Jury Awards Upstate Family $18M A Greenville County jury handed down an $18 million dollar verdict in a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company.  [Sudden acceleration of moving vehicle on entering freeway. 1996 Ford Explorer.]
  • December 15th 2009 circa 12.40 pm: Melbourne Australia: Cruise Control Glitch causes a ride of  terror.A motorist thought he was going to die during a terrifying ride through Melbourne's eastern suburbs after his cruise control jammed.Chase Weir, 22, was forced to dodge cars during his 30-minute ordeal after his Ford Explorer became stuck on 80km/h.The car's computer malfunctioned when he attempted to take the Burke Road exit from Kew to Greensborough about 12.40pm today.Mr Weir's attempts to stop the vehicle — including braking, shifting the car out of gear and even removing the keys — proved futile as he desperately dialled triple-0 on his mobile phone, The Age reports.Two police cars found the out-of-control 4WD and attempted to clear a path along the Eastlink roadway.But the driver was forced to veer onto the wrong side of the road to avoid banked-up traffic near Monash University's Frankston campus."That's pretty much when I thought, 'I'm dead'," Mr Weir told told Nine News.  Nine News Video Report  ABC News radio interview
  • Stuart Merry Case - Beverly Mass - 2006 Crown Victoria with Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) -

    • May 13th 2009 Stuart Merry Case: Problem Police cruiser back on the road  http://www.salemnews.com/punews/local_story_132232643.html?keyword=topstory
    • May  6th 2008 Stuart Merry to receive new trialhttp://www.wickedlocal.com/beverly/news/x304957022/Merry-to-receive-new-trial
    • April 7th 2008 Beverly, Mass. - Beverly Police officer Stuart Merry will lose his driver’s license for 15 years, be on probation for three years and perform 200 hours of community service — but will not have to spend a day in jail — as part of a sentence handed down on Monday.A jury found Merry, 41, guilty of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation after a three-day trial in Peabody District Court last month. http://www.wickedlocal.com/beverly/archive/x639668455

    • November 01, 2007 Merry pleads not guilty in fatal cruiser crash. By Julie Manganis , Staff writer Salem News. PEABODY - A Beverly patrolman pleaded not guilty at his arraignment yesterday on vehicular homicide charges, as his lawyer now appears to be backing away from claims that the crash was caused by a sudden acceleration of the police cruiser.http://www.salemnews.com/punews/local_story_305094043

    • August 1st 2007  Beverly police officer faces charges after deadly crash.   BEVERLY, Mass. -- A Beverly police officer is facing charges of negligent vehicular homicide in connection with a crash that killed a woman. State police yesterday cited Patrolman Stuart Merry on the misdemeanor charge, as well as with speeding, failing to stay within marked lanes and driving without a license. The January 20th crash killed 61-year-old Bonney Burns, who was sitting in her parked car outside her apartment. Her car was in the path of Merry's out-of-control 2006 Ford Crown Victoria cruiser, which veered across the double-yellow line. The reasons for the crash remain unclear, but police have said in the past that they have experienced unexplained "sudden acceleration" in the cruiser. Merry has been on paid leave since the crash.  http://www3.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BO58885/

    • January 23rd 2007 Safety concerns take cruiser off road by Paul Leighton Staff Writer Salem News. BEVERLY - Police Chief John Cassola said he has taken another police cruiser off the road "as a precautionary measure" in the wake of Saturday's fatal crash involving another cruiser. The safety of three Police Department cruisers has been called into question by the crash that killed 61-year-old Bonney Burns on Saturday morning on Cabot Street. Burns was sitting in her parked car outside her apartment building when a cruiser driven by Patrolman Stuart Merry crossed the center line and slammed into her Toyota Camry. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are not saying what caused Merry to veer across the road. But Cassola has said that Merry's cruiser, along with two other 2006 Ford Crown Victoria cruisers, has had a history of incidents with "random acceleration."


  • September 2006 Knoster v. Ford 1993 Taurus. 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals orders new trial http://www.vlex.us/caselaw/U-S-Court-Of-Appeals-Third-Circuit/Estate-Knoster-v-Ford-Mtr-Co/2100-23305534,01.html
    • 3 December 2003 : Bloomberg News: Ford's Own Evidence Threatens Automaker in Acceleration Suits Virginia Manigault will never forget what happened when her husband, a Pentecostal Christian minister, put his Ford Crown Victoria into gear to go visit their daughter. The car bolted out of the driveway and shot across the street. [Extensive review article] http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=nifea&&sid=aLUf8fqc3VzQ
  • January 6th 2004 PENDLETON V. FORD & ANOTHER V. FORD:  Detroit Free Press : Ford Motor Co. settles two lawsuits at trial claiming that its vehicles had an electronic defect that led to sudden-acceleration accidents. [Pendleton v Ford in California , ANOTHER v. Ford in Philadelphia  ] 
  • April 12th 2003 : Salem Oregon: Crash splits car, injures 3 (1996 Ford Taurus) 
    • "A 26-year-old Salem man is in critical condition after the car he was driving Friday was split in half in a dramatic collision on Market Street NE. Ryan Miller’s blue Honda Accord was hauled away in pieces after being crushed by an eastbound white Ford Taurus <1996>  driven by an 83-year-old Salem woman. Marianne Fish appeared to have mistaken the gas pedal for the brake pedal, according to Salem Police. She had been swerving to avoid hitting cars when she struck the Honda in an oncoming lane of traffic, Sgt. Jeff Barnes said.." Accident occurred April 11 2003 12.15 p.m.   Dead link:   http://www.salemnaz.org/ryanm/Morrison.htm
  •  March 2003 : WATTS V. FORD : Jury Finds for Ford in Sudden Acceleration Suit. (Ford Taurus) -
    • On Friday, February 28, a Sacramento County jury returned a verdict in favor of Ford Motor Company, finding that a 1989 Ford Taurus had no defect in the design of its cruise control system, door latch and seat belt, as claimed by Carolyn Watts. The jury returned its verdict in less than two hours after an eight-week trial. http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2003/03/06/156610.html?NEWS
  • 11 Feb 2003 : EMERT, LEE, HENRY, SAUCEMAN and WEAR  V. FORD  (Lincoln Town Car)
    • The suit originated from the accident at Rockford Baptist Church on October 2nd 1994  when June Tipton's Lincoln Towncar sped across the church parking lot and struck another car. The Lincoln then went onto the porch, struck several members of the congregation and killed Ann Emert of Louisville. Trial Reports were printed in the Daily Times of Maryville between 28 January 2003 and 11 February. Report of 12 February 2003 reports settlement prior to going to jury.
  • December 3rd 2002 : Court Decision: HUBER V. FORD  ( 1998 Lincoln Town Car with  'Next Generation' Cruise Control)
    • Verdict for a woman, who was injured, and on behalf of her minor daughter, who was killed, when the cruise control mechanism in their car failed to disengage when the woman applied the brakes to slow the car.  [Relates to an accident on August 17th 1999 when the plaintiff Joan Huber was driving a 1998 Lincoln Town Car travelling west on Interstate 68, approaching the West Pierpoint Exit in Monongalia County at a speed of approximately 70 mph. Driver was apparently unable to slow the vehicle on turning into exit ramp and a fatal accident resulted.]  http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3898/is_200306/ai_n9273056
  • JONES V. FORD (Ford 1991 Lincoln Town Car)
    • Nov 30th 2004: Ford not liable in crash A Virginia jury said Ford Motor Co. wasn't responsible for injuries suffered by a 74-year-old woman who claimed her Lincoln Town Car accelerated on its own and crashed into a light pole. [Dead Links Feb 7th 2007 :  http://www.freep.com/money/business/irep1e_20041201.htm   Also, on subscription: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-rup1.8dec01,1,2600648.story?coll=la-headlines-business ]  
    • March 2002: Virginia Supreme Court. Record No 010136 Margaret Jones v. FORD MOTOR COMPANY OPINION BY JUSTICE LEROY HASSELL SR. March 1, 2002 [Circuit court judgement was affirmed in part, reversed in part and the case was remanded for a new trial consistent with the views expressed in the Virginia Supreme Court judgement] Opinion cites depositions by 4 witnesses who had experienced sudden acceleration events: Ronald H. Campbell a Virginia State Trooper; and 3 secret service agents who had made depositions in the case Vicky Selman v. FORD Arkansas PB-C-94-474 [John W.Baker, Robert A. Diehl, Theodore M. Steiner].  For a discussion of  the exclusion of expert witness testimony in this case seeDAUBERT'S RATIONALE IN PRACTICE:  THE EXCLUSION OF EXPERT WITNESS TESTIMONY IN VIRGINIA STATE COURTS by  Joseph K. Reid III   and  Perry W. Miles http://www.mcguirewoods.com/news-resources/publications/products_liability/daubert.doc
FORD CRUISE DEACTIVATION SWITCH FIRES

Ford Motor Co. recall 3.8 million pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles for a cruise control brake pressure deactivation switch suspected of causing engine fires. It is the fifth largest auto industry recall in U.S. history. The recall of 1994-2002 model-year vehicles includes the company's F-150 pickup truck, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator and Ford Bronco.  AP.
Note: This recall follows a federal investigation into 1995-1999 and 2001-2002 F-150s and 1997-1999 and 2001-2002 Expeditions and Navigators annouced in March 2005 and not yet completed.  On 27th Jan 2005 there was a recall for 792,000 Model Year 2000  F-150s, Expeditions, Navigators and 2001 F-Series Supercrews. Modifications in the latest recall include a low current fusible link in the wiring harness to protect against excess fault current should the switch fail.  Links below. See also earlier recall in 1999.  Ford video statement   Texas Instrument Statement about switch NHTSA Report  EA5005
 
Cruise Control Brake Pressure
                                  Deactivation Switch
  • March 23 2005  NEW YORK (CNN) - A federal investigation into cruise-control problems is underway in an estimated 3.7 million Ford F-150s, Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators, auto safety regulators said Wednesday. http://money.cnn.com/2005/03/23/news/fortune500/ford/
    • Feb 7th 2007: Ford Motor Co video statement on Cruise Control Deactivation Switches by Ray Nevi, Assistant Director in Ford's  Automotive Safety Office is no longer available.
    • Google Ford Cruise Deactivation Switch
  • Oct 17 2000: FORD Focus Recall:  SafetyAlerts :  Dearborn, MI  - Ford Motor Company has announced three voluntary safety recalls affecting model year 2000 Ford Focus vehicles. .. including cruise control cables..http://consumeraffairs.com/recalls/focus.html
  • Dec 13 2000: FORD Explorer and Mountaineer Recall :  Software fault forces Ford recall -  by Andrew Thomas : Car giant Ford has instigated a recall of 110,000 Explorer and Mountaineer sport utility vehicles because of a programming glitch in the car's cruise control equipment. Today, Mike Vaughn, a spokesman for Ford in Detroit, told The Register that the programming of a chip in the powertrain control module was suspect. "In this case, it is the way it was programmed, not the way it was designed or manufactured," he said. "The fix is simply to reflash or reprogram it at the dealer."http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/15445.html
  • 5 April 5 1999: FORD Recall: Potentially defective cruise control cable : Ford is recalling 945,000 cars and trucks across North America to replace  potentially defective cruise-control cables that could cause the accelerator  to stick. About 36,000 are in Canada. 1998 and 1999 models : Ford Explorer, Ranger pick up, Mustang sport  coupe, and 1999 Super Duty F-series pickup and chassis-cab. http://www.ksl.com/dump/news/cc/recaldir.htm
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Last updated May 15th 2012


Antony Anderson

www.antony-anderson.com