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Product Liability: Faulty Cruise Control Switch In 2001 Ford F-150 Pickup

As most product liability attorneys will tell you, defective auto products can become a danger to many. On New Year's Day 2004, a pre-dawn fire destroyed the Kennesaw, Georgia home of Juan and Tanika Washington. It also took the life of the couple's 4-year-old daughter, Blake. When investigators sought the cause of the fire, they were surprised to learn that its origins pointed to the family's parked 2001 Ford F-150 pickup.

The Washington family filed a wrongful death suit against Ford, alleging that a defective cruise-control deactivation switch in the F-150 caused the fire that killed Blake.

Ford recalled as many as 738,000 of its F-150 pickups, Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators due to defective cruise-control. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) subsequently opened a broader investigation into the switches found in 3.7 million Ford pickups and SUVs.

"These suits and numerous property-damage cases in Texas, Florida, California and elsewhere come on the heels of Ford and NHTSA's probes into hundreds of fires in Ford pickups," noted nationally recognized product liability lawyer, John Bisnar.

"With millions of Ford pickups and SUVs now under scrutiny for dangerous fires, the Washington case highlights a hidden, but lethal automotive defect," said nationally recognized auto defective product lawyer, Brian Chase. "Sadly, evidence suggests that one of those vehicles was in the Washington's garage when it caught fire in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2004."

After learning of the massive Ford recall, investigators took a closer look at the Washington's F-150 pickup, which has since been scrapped and destroyed, as the possible source of the fire. "From what we know now about the recall, it certainly could have been the truck," said Rod Sanders, Cobb County senior fire investigator.

A Ford spokeswoman said that without the F-150, there's no way of knowing whether the switch was responsible. "It is critical to investigate the fire scene before responsibly reaching a conclusion about the cause and origin of the fire," said Kristen Kinley of Ford.

An NHTSA spokesman said the agency cannot conclusively connect the fatal fire in Georgia to the F-150 since the truck no longer exists. "We've been unable to confirm that fatality was linked to the cruise control," said Rae Tyson of NHTSA.

But the Washington family's attorney said a three-month investigation by fire experts is the basis for the wrongful-death suit against Ford and its suppliers Texas Instruments and DuPont. "We expect to prove that the physical evidence is consistent with the fire originating in the Ford," said the Washington's attorney.

For Juan and Tanika Washington, the lawsuit is one way to uncover the truth behind the tragedy that altered their lives forever. "We lost a child and nothing's going to bring her back, no amount of money," said Tanika Washington. "I want somebody to give a damn that we lost our baby."

"The Washington's lawsuit points out the critical need to preserve evidence, in their case namely the defective vehicle itself", said John Bisnar. "In a case like theirs, the offending vehicle should have been kept unrepaired and protected from the elements. It was a crucial piece of evidence."

While lawsuits like the Washington's and the lawsuits we have filed against Ford will not bring their daughter Blake back, they serve to alert the general public about the dangers fire danger of these Ford vehicles. We also hope that the lawsuit costs help pursued Ford and the other automakers to build safer cars.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries as the result of a defective auto part or vehicle, contact the experienced California auto products liability attorneys at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation. We will use our extensive knowledge and resources to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.


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