Update 1/31 - According to a docket entry dated 1/29 the case has settled
Las Vegas, NV - The first products liability trial over claims keyless ignitions can potentially leave cars running and flood homes with deadly carbon monoxide gas begins February 3 in Nevada state court, and the trial will be webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
The case stems from the 2015 death of Nevada resident Patricia Christensen. Her children and grandchildren sued Ford Motor Company for wrongful death after she inadvertently left her 2012 Lincoln MKS sedan running while parked in her garage, which the lawsuit claims resulted in her death from carbon monoxide poisoning after the gas filled her home.
Christensen’s vehicle was equipped with the “Intelligent Access” keyless ignition system, which allowed the engine to be activated and deactivated by pushing a button on the dashboard. The complaint alleges the system is defective, because without pressing the button the engine continues to run even if an accompanying key fob is removed from the steering column.
Ford allegedly “Failed to adequately warn consumers that the product required a change to fundamental and deeply ingrained consumer habits that the engine would continue to run indefinitely even in the absence of the consumer and the key fob with constant emission of carbon monoxide while parked,” the complaint states.
Ford supposedly should have known about this and included a “fail-safe” system to turn off the engine after a certain period, according to the complaint, after receiving warnings about the issue from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation.
In their answer to the complaint, Ford argues the keyless ignition system in Christensen’s vehicle came with clear instructions detailing its use, including the requirement that the button be used to deactivate the engine.
“The vehicle which is the subject of this lawsuit contains specific warnings regarding the consequences of its use which admonished the user not to use the vehicle except pursuant to, and in strict conformance with, the instructions for its use,” Ford’s answer states. “The vehicle was not in a defective condition at any time, including when it left the possession, custody or control of Ford.”
Besides Ford, the outcome of the first keyless ignition trial in the country could have widespread implications for numerous other automobile manufacturers. Nissan, Ford, Toyota, FCA US and Hyundai all faced federal class action claims related to keyless ignitions, but a California judge threw out the cases in 2016, claiming they didn’t sufficiently allege an actual defect exists in the ignition system.
According to The New York Times nearly half of the 17 million new vehicles sold annually in the United States come equipped with keyless ignitions.
The plaintiffs in the Las Vegas case are represented by Zac Arbitmen and David Caputo of the Pennsylvania-based firm Youman & Caputo LLC, along with local Nevada attorneys Don Namura of Laxalt & Nomura Ltd. and attorney Jerry Mowbray.
Ford is represented by attorneys from Snell & Wilmer LLP’s Las Vegas office.
The trial before Judge Joanna S. Kishner is scheduled to take 14 days to complete, and the full proceedings will be webcast live and on demand by CVN from the start of openings forward.
The case is captioned Brett Cassell, et al. v. Ford Motor Company, et al., case number A-17-760542-C in Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org