John Uustal quoted in the Daily Business Review: Ford Agrees to Settle over Explorer Exhaust Leaks

Ford Motor Company has agreed to settle a nationwide class action lawsuit in which up to one million Ford Explorer owners have claimed that exhaust was able to leak into their vehicles through the air conditioning vent in the passenger compartment. The plaintiffs were represented by Attorneys John Uustal and Michael Hersh of Kelley/Uustal together with Jordan Lewis of Jordan Lewis P.A. of Fort Lauderdale. 

According to the lawsuit, the defect made it possible for “dangerous quantities” of carbon monoxide to enter the vehicle. Plaintiff Angela Sanchez-Knutson originally sued Ford in 2014 after smelling the exhaust fumes during each of eight service visits she made to a Sunrise Ford dealership and being told that although the dealership was aware of the problem, they did not know how to fix it. The lawsuit claimed that Ford was in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act as well as state consumer protection laws. 

The proposed settlement, which was filed this week in Fort Lauderdale Federal Court, will provide repairs for the owners of 2011-2015 model year Explorers. The first set of repairs will involve sealing the cabin, replacing air vents, and reprogramming the air conditioning system. If the problem persists, Ford has promised to provide a newly redesigned exhaust pipe with a downward pointing tip. If the vehicle owner still smells exhaust fumes after these repairs have been made, then Ford has agreed to an expedited process regarding buying back the vehicle. 

“A fix was more important than a monetary payment because the cars, if they weren’t fixed, were continuing to be sold and other people would drive them,” said John Uustal. 

Ford has also agreed to notify all original buyers, and current owners, of the settlement. According to Mr. Uustal, “If any of them paid out of pocket for trying to get this thing fixed, [they] will be able to participate in the reimbursement process, even if they don’t own the car anymore.”

The issue came to litigation in the United States after the problem had been resolved in other countries because Ford treats what it considers “hot weather countries” differently than “standard weather countries.” The plaintiffs successfully argued that while drivers in colder climates were unlikely to have a problem because they seldom use the air conditioner, drivers in hotter climates like Florida were at a greater risk. “I don’t think that Florida is a ‘standard’ climate,” said Mr. Uustal. “You can’t just call the U.S. ‘standard.’ Florida is a hot-weather climate.”

Varying levels of reimbursement will also be provided for owners whose warranties expired. The settlement was reached after trial commenced before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas.

If you own one of the affected 2011-2015 Ford Explorers, you may be able to benefit from this settlement. 

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