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Crown Victoria hearing delayed by venue dispute

July 19, 2002 CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- AP reported that a hearing that could have forced Ford Motor Co. to make immediate changes to gas tanks on the more than 20,000 Crown Victoria police cruisers in Texas has been delayed as attorneys dispute venues.

A state judge had scheduled the hearing for Monday to consider a temporary injunction to get Ford to begin notifying agencies of alterations it has been offering to make the tanks more puncture resistant.

A complaint filed by the Nueces County Commissioners Court on July 2 blames design defects for the deaths of at least 11 police officers nationwide in the past two decades, all of whom survived rear-end impacts but died when the gas tanks exploded.

No deaths occurred in Texas, but two Texas officers survived fiery crashes.

Ford earlier this month filed court papers to move the case to a federal court. Plaintiffs responded with a request to keep the case in the county courtroom where it was filed.

Ford has also filed a motion before a federal panel that seeks to combine the case with another pending in New Jersey.

Hearing dates have not been set on any of the petitions.

Ford spokeswoman Sara Tatchio said it was a "fairly normal procedure" to ask for cases to be heard in a wider venue. She has defended the Crown Victoria as a safe vehicle.