Fuel Systems, gas tanks, Crown Victorias. Dating back to the days of the Ford Pinto car fires, plaintiffs have claimed that certain gas tanks and fuel systems were defective in design and in manufacture. According to recent data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Association’s (NHTSA) Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS), since 1993, there have been 67 deaths in Crown Victoria’s, and in at least 23 of these, fire was the most harmful event. At least 14 police officers have died in crashes when the gas tanks of their Crown Victorias caught fire in rear end collisions. There are approximately 300,000 to 400,000 Crown Victorias on the road used by various police departments. The Crown Victoria is used by many taxi cab companies as well as private owners. Experts contend that the Crown Victoria’s danger arises from the location of the gas tank, which is between the rear bumper and the rear axle.
Interestingly, this is the exact same theory Gary Eto prevailed on in Navarro v General Motors (1996), where the jury found that GM was negligent in its design of the fuel system in its 1979 Monte Carlo, when GM placed the gas tank between the rear bumper and rear axle.
In Navarro, Gary Eto also contended that at a minimum, GM should have placed a barrier or shield between the fuel tank and the passenger compartment to insulate the passengers in the event the fuel tank was breached in an accident. In September 2002, Ford inasmuch “admitted” there is a problem with the design of its Crown Victoria, as it offered to install and pay for fuel tank shields on Crown Victoria police vehicles. However, Ford did not offer the fuel tank shield to private civilian owners, or to taxi cab companies. Others, such as the City of Dallas, Texas, question the effectiveness of Ford’s quick fix, stating it does more harm than good. In any event, the Crown Victoria continues to take lives as the car fire deaths continue to mount in 2003, as more people have been killed in Crown Victoria fires than were killed in the Ford Pinto fires 20 years ago.
View Gary’s successful verdict against GM for fuel system design negligence.