Ford wants ‘Lemon Law’ claim dismissed from West Chester exploding police vehicle case

Police vehicle does not fall under the definition of motor vehicle under Lemon Law, company says.

West Chester Twp.’s insurance company sued Ford Motor Company after the engine on a Ford Explorer police cruiser spontaneously combusted, and the mega vehicle manufacturer wants new “Lemon Law” claims dismissed.

The township and its insurance company, the Ohio Township Association Risk Management Authority, filed suit in Butler County Common Pleas Court in February against Ford and the Lebanon Ford dealership. They are seeking at minimum $48,353 plus punitive and other damages in the products liability suit.

OTARMA sued after it had to pay when one of the West Chester Police Dept.’s brand new Ford Explorers exploded into flames and was totaled in 2021. They filed an amended complaint two weeks ago, adding two more defendants who outfitted the vehicle with police gear and a new “Lemon Law” claim.

“After being notified of the Explorer’s nonconformity, defendant Ford took no action to repair, replace, or return and refund the full purchase price of the Explorer,” the complaint reads, citing the Lemon Law statute.

Ford has filed a response to the lawsuit as a whole denying wrong-doing and entered a motion to dismiss the Lemon Law claim on Tuesday, saying a police vehicle does not fall under the definition of a motor vehicle under the Lemon Law which only covers passenger cars and noncommercial motor vehicles.

“The subject vehicle is not a motor vehicle under Ohio law and plaintiffs cannot asset a lemon law claim for alleged defects in the subject vehicle,” the motion reads and goes onto say Ford couldn’t repair the vehicle because they were notified of the fire three months after the vehicle was totaled.

“Ohio courts have held that a manufacturer of a vehicle must be afforded ample opportunity to repair the vehicle for a plaintiff to recover under the lemon law,” the pleading says.

According to the lawsuit, the township bought the vehicle in January 2021 and it was deployed for the first time on May 31, 2021 for a 12-hour shift. At shift change, Officer Gabe Staton began patrolling and was dispatched to an emergency on Lake Meadow Court. He drove about 65 miles per hour for around three miles to reach the incident.

He left the vehicle running because his lights were activated, and two minutes later someone yelled the Explorer was on fire. Staton tried using his onboard fire extinguisher to no avail, and “flames were visible under the Explorer and through the Explorer’s hood area.”

The fire department was called and extinguished the fire, with reports indicating “at the time the Explorer was destroyed by the engine fire, it had an approximate odometer reading of 150 miles.”

The suit says OTARMA paid the township for the damaged vehicle but West Chester had to pay the $500 deductible — they want to be made whole, and then some. The action asks the court to award “actual, compensatory, exemplary, punitive and other damages” to OTARMA to stop Ford from manufacturing other “defective” vehicles.

As is customary at the beginning of a lawsuit, the defendants will file answers, addressing the complaint paragraph-by-paragraph. Ford and Lebanon have filed these, in most cases denying the claims or writing the defendant “lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations.”

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