Demand for Ford Vehicle Recall is MadeNEWPORT BEACH, Calif.--Feb. 14, 2001--The death of a 14-year-old girl who was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the rollover of her family's 1992 Ford Explorer has prompted a new national outcry for a recall of some of the auto-maker's U.S. vehicles to replace defective seatbelt buckles that have been illegal in European vehicles for the past 30 years.
"It continues to amaze me that U.S. companies produce a knowingly defective product in the United States, that they do not market abroad -- in this instance, the Ford Explorer," said Brian Chase, of Bisnar & Chase in Orange County California, the attorneys who handled a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Ford which reached final, confidential settlement early this year.
The case is still pending against TRW, the manufacturer of the defective buckle.
The unexpected release of a side-release style belt buckle during the 1997 accident resulted in severe spinal injuries to Ashley Liebold who was rendered a paraplegic in the crash -- she later died.
Attorneys in the case say there have been thousands of injuries and there are many more potential accidents waiting to happen with a threat as real as the recent problems with defective tires.
"The tragedy here is that she was wearing her seatbelt. Each of us has the right to know -- when we buckle up, or when our children do -- that the buckle will stay buckled. But that wasn't the case. Ford knew it had a defective seatbelt latch and still let the public use them. It cost Ashley her life. Our hope is to save additional lives," said Chase.
False Latching of Seatbelts
Investigation of over 300,000 documents and 40 depositions by the attorneys for Liebold uncovered that a certain type of seatbelt, specifically called "RCF-67" or "Type I" side release buckle is inherently prone to false latching by design.
False latching occurs when the tongue of the seatbelt is inserted into the buckle, but the buckle does not fully engage, leaving the passenger to believe that they are buckled in when they are not.
Further investigation by the law firm Bisnar & Chase, indicated that Ford was aware of the problem and had originally corrected it -- but later chose to implement use of the "RCF-67" design to save money -- approximately $1.90 per vehicle according to the attorneys.
Which Ford Vehicles Feature the RCF-67?
According the Chase, almost all makes and models of Ford vehicles sold in the United States before 1996 utilized the "RCF 67" buckle, however, the buckle's defect of false latching becomes more problematic in Ford vans, trucks and SUVs, and a few current models still do.
"There may be many others who have been injured or even killed by this problem but never reported it -- who would possibly imagine that the part in the car intended to save your life -- might cost you your life?" said Chase. "We imagine that during this recall effort we will discover many other instances that the public is not aware of," he said.
Bisnar & Chase will be working closely to report additional findings to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and asking for a full Federal Government Recall of the defective seatbelt latches.