Suit Accuses Ford Motor Co. Of Negligence, Aggravated Assault, Malice
NBC5i.com â€“ Dallas-Ft. Worth Feb.19, 2003
DALLAS — The parents of a Dallas police officer killed when his Crown Victoria cruiser was hit from behind and burst into flames filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Ford Motor Co. Patrick Metzler was working off-duty on Oct. 23 with a construction crew on the High-Five interchange project at U.S. 75 and Interstate 635 when he was hit.
The lawsuit filed in Dallas County accuses Ford Motor Co. of negligence, aggravated assault and malice in the death of Metzler. The suit seeks unspecified damages. "It is our belief that the Ford Motor Co. knew the hazards of that vehicle, knew that the vehicle was vulnerable to rear-end explosion, and despite having that information, continued to design, market and sell that vehicle to the police community," said Bob Gorsky, the family’s attorney.
The lawsuit cites deposition testimony from Ford officials taken last month in conjunction with class-action lawsuits. According to the lawsuit, Ford was aware prior to 2001 that punctures in the vehicle’s fuel tanks by rear suspension components were responsible for fires that caused deaths and injuries among law enforcement officers. The suit also alleges that Ford had knowledge of how to prevent the punctures prior to Oct. 2001, but withheld it until Oct. 2002.
In December, the city of Dallas sued Ford, seeking information about Crown Victoria police cars that officers’ groups say are prone to erupt in flames when hit from behind at high speeds. Ford says the Crown Victoria is one of the safest vehicles on the road, and that the problem is with how it is used.
Speaking through a spokesman, Dallas City Attorney Madeleine B. Johnson said the city and the Metzler family shared "significant concerns about the safety" of Crown Victoria police cars. "We are working together to get to the bottom of the issues that led to Officer Metzler’s death," Johnson said through spokesman David Schulze. Schulze declined to give further details about the city’s dealings with the Metzler family.
The city wants information on crash testing on Crown Victorias equipped with gas tank shields. Detroit-based Ford announced in September it would pay to retrofit police-issued Crown Victorias with the shields, but the city is investigating whether such shields are effective, the petition stated. Dallas officials also want information from Ford about "bladders," or sacks that protect fuel from igniting.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation in October did not find a defect in the Crown Victoria. The agency said the rate of fires was not much greater than with Chevrolet Caprice police cars.
On Feb. 14 the family of a state trooper in New York who was killed when his Crown Victoria cruiser was hit from behind and burst into flames sued Ford for more than $250 million. That lawsuit alleges negligence in the manufacture of the nation’s most popular police car. Trooper Robert Ambrose, 31, was the 13th officer to die in such fires since 1983.
Jeffrey Scott Goddard, 23, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Feb. 6 in the accident that killed Metzler. He entered the plea under terms of a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A Dallas County grand jury indicted Goddard in December on a count of intoxication manslaughter.