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Old 06-22-2005, 05:49   #1 (permalink)
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US:Court rejects Florida police class action against Ford Motor Co.

Court rejects Florida police class action against Ford Motor Co.

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- An appellate court on Tuesday reversed a trial judge's ruling that would have expanded a Florida Panhandle sheriff's lawsuit over the safety of Ford patrol cars to include police agencies throughout the state.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal unanimously decertified the case as a class action, ruling Circuit Judge G. Robert Barron failed to make findings of fact as required by procedural rules.

"Absent specific findings, we cannot discern whether the trial court applied the correct analysis when making its decision," the panel wrote.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris contends Crown Victoria Police Interceptors made by Ford Motor Co. are unsafe because several of the cars have exploded in flames when hit from behind. It is among a series of similar lawsuits across the nation.

Ford contends the car is safe, earning the federal government's highest crash rating. A Ford lawyer, in a news release from company headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., hailed the ruling as a victory that will allow continued sales to Florida police departments.

"Ford knew from working closely with Florida law enforcement agencies that the officers themselves believe in the Police Interceptor and had very little interest in joining this litigation," lawyer Doug Lampe said in the release.

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday for a spokeswoman for Morris.

Despite the lawsuit Morris tried to buy more cars from Ford, but the company has refused to sell to his department since July 2003, a year after he sued. Barron rejected a request by Morris to force Ford to sell cars to him.

A class-action police case went to trial in Illinois last fall, but the jury ruled in Ford's favor. A Missouri jury last week also exonerated Ford in the 2003 death of a state trooper whose Crown Victoria was struck from behind and caught fire.

"Ford is committed to making a safe car even safer, but courtroom engineering is not the answer," Lampe said. "To improve officer safety in traffic stops requires a focus on the root problem: drunk driving."
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