Ford Lawsuit Filed Over Police Officer Death in Car Fire After Accident

The family of an Ohio police officer has filed a product liability lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, saying that the defective design of a Crown Victoria Police Interceptor led to the officer’s death in a car fire after he crashed during a high-speed police chase.

The Ford Crown Victoria lawsuit was filed on October 6 in Cuyahoga County Court in Ohio by the family of George Brentar, who died two years ago. While chasing a speeding car, Brentar lost control of his Crown Victoria police car, which crashed into a pole and exploded.

Ford is faulted for not installing an Electronic Stability Control system in the vehicles and for placing the gas tank in the vehicle’s rear crush zone, according to the product liability lawsuit.

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The Ford Crown Victoria is used by police agencies throughout the United States, but was listed as the sixth poorest performing car of the year by Forbes magazine in 2007.

In several states, Crown Victoria car fires have been linked to the deaths of police officers. In an accident similar to Brentar’s, Hollywood police officer Alex Del Rio died in November 2008 when the gas tank exploded in a Crown Victoria police cruiser after he crashed into a tree, causing the car to burst into flames while he was trapped inside.

On December 17, 2006, Fort Worth police officer Dwayne Freeto died when another driver rear ended a Crown Victoria police interceptor, causing it to burst into flames. His family has filed a similar car fire lawsuit against Ford, also alleging the vehicle is defectively designed.

And in November 2007, the Ohio State Troopers Association forced the state to agree to install fire suppression systems in all the Crown Victorias driven by state troopers after officers Joshua P. Risner and Dale R. Holcomb were killed in a Crown Victoria car fire in 2006.

The lawsuit by Brentar’s family says his death, and the deaths of other officers, could have been prevented by the electronic stability control system, and by better design of the gas tank.

Photo of similar Ford Police Interceptor courtesy of Alberto Rodriguez.

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