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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Injured Family Claims Ford Lied at Trial

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - Claiming that Ford Motors "misled and concealed information from the government" about an injury crash, a family asked a St. Louis County judge to vacate a 2004 judgment in favor of the auto company.

The Eltiste family's 1991 Ford Aerostar van crashed into an embankment in 1994, injuring all four people aboard. They say the crash was caused by the cruise control's failures to disengage, making the van accelerate uncontrollably.

The Eltistes sued Ford in 1998, but a jury rendered a verdict in favor of Ford on all counts in 2004.

In their new complaint, the family says: "Ford intentionally misled and concealed information from the government, including its internal reports, studies, and investigations, which resulted in NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] closing one investigation, and later issuing a government report with false findings and conclusions which Ford knows to be untrue; Ford's internal reports, studies, and investigations directly contradict the principal findings and conclusions in the NHTSA-funded TSC study.

"Ford then used unfounded, misleading quotes from the knowingly false TSC study during trial to intentionally mislead the jury, while plaintiffs' counsel is barred by law from even questioning persons who authored a government report like the TSC study regarding its accuracy; Ford has utilized this fraudulent tactic repeatedly in trial, and did so again in this case."

The Eltistes say Ford knew about problems with its cruise control systems as early as 1973 and received numerous complaints in the 1980s.

On Dec. 31, 1986, the NHTSA notified Ford that it had identified 439 reports of unexpected vehicle acceleration that resulted in 193 accidents, 103 injuries and five fatalities in 1983-1986 Ford vehicles, which could result in a recall, the complaint states.

The Eltistes claim Ford conducted its own investigations to mislead the NHTSA in order to avoid a recall.

"On December 18, 1989, Ford falsely represented to NHTSA that the results of one of their investigations ('Updegrove study') supported the conclusion that pedal misapplication was the most probable cause of sudden acceleration, when in actually the Updegrove study virtually eliminated pedal misapplication as a possible cause for sudden acceleration," the complaint states.

The Circuit Court of Sumter County, Fla. Last year overturned a verdict in favor of Ford in a similar case based on the same evidence, the Eltistes say.

They are represented by Timothy Cronin of The Simon Law Firm in St. Louis.

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