Ford In Billion Dollar Lawsuit

There is a big lawsuit over a small car part: the thick film ignition module.

The module was used in some 20 million cars built by Ford from 1983 to 1995. Attorneys suing Ford told jurors Tuesday that a fault in the module meant the cars could stall repeatedly, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

Â"The dealer would pronounce it fine, might suggest water in the gas tank, only to have it happen again and again,Â" said Paul Nelson, the plaintiffÂ's attorney.

But the lawsuit claims that Ford understood exactly what the problem was: the computer chip mounted too close to the engine was overheating.

Internal Ford documents will be used as evidence in the case. They allegedly show that Ford knew about problems with the ignition module back in 1986 but determined that fixing it would cost $400 million.

Ford says the module fails no more than any other car part and that opposing attorneys are attempting to create a safety issue where none exists.

Â"What they are trying to do is claim billions of dollars without showing any injury whatsoever,Â" said Donald Lough, a lawyer for Ford.

The attorneys challenging Ford say they believe the sudden stalling has left many people injured.

According to plaintiffÂ's attorney Jeff Fazio, Â"The problem is Ford has not allowed those cases to go to trial. They have settled those cases and then turned around and said no one has been injured.Â"

Two years ago Asali Johnson told CBS News she was paralyzed in an accident when the Mercury Sable she was in stalled unexpectedly.

Â"They knew about this. This problem with the car is something they could have fixed if they had chosen to,Â" claims Johnson.

A government safety study in the 1980s found no problem with the ignition module. But jurors will now see internal Ford documents federal investigators did not see. Ford could be made to pay $3 billion and could also experience something unprecedented: an automobile recall ordered by a judge.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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