Design defect in some Ford models may cause unintended acceleration

A recent lawsuit against automaker Ford claims that a design defect in the braking system of some cars may cause sudden, unintended acceleration. The specific models named in the suit include the 2008-2010 Taurus sedan, 2007-2010 Edge crossover, 2004-2010 Explorer sports utility vehicle and 2006-2010 Lincoln MKZ sedan.

The suit cites a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation identifying Ford as receiving 22 percent of complaints regarding unintended acceleration between the years 2003 and 2009. Despite these complaints, according to the suit, Ford did nothing to address the safety of its brake design and did not install brake override systems in its vehicles. Brake override systems received a great deal of attention several years ago, after Toyota recalled nearly eight million vehicles due to acceleration concerns.

Ford has denied the claims in the lawsuit and argues that any unintended acceleration problems are not caused by defective brake design. The company cites investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finding that incidences of unintended acceleration are usually caused by driver error rather than mechanical defect.

Manufacturers Are Responsible For Defective Products

Though it is unclear how the lawsuit against Ford will end, it is possible that it will cost the company a significant amount of money. These types of claims, where a person claims to have suffered injury due to a defective product, are known as product liability suits.

Generally speaking, manufacturers, distributors and sellers — that is, those responsible for making a particular product available to the public — are responsible for injuries and damage caused by defectively manufactured or designed products. Manufacturing defects are those that occur due to poor manufacturing techniques or the use of substandard materials. Design defects are those that arise when a product's actual design renders it inherently unsafe or useless, no matter the care taken or quality of materials used in the manufacturing process. Manufacturers and sellers may also be held liable for injuries that occur because they have failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions on how to use a particular product.

Product liability claims may be based on several theories of liability. For example, a person may file suit against a manufacturer under a negligence theory, under which he would argue that manufacturer failed to exercise due care in the production or handling of a product. Strict liability is another common theory, according to which a manufacturer is liable when it places a product on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defect, that has an injury-causing defect. In strict liability, it is not necessary to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. Often times, product liability claims are based on multiple theories of possible liability.