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Attorney Mark Haney sues Ford over Gas Tank Design

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Fort Worth, TXIf someone you know or love is driving a Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car or Grand Marquis, you'll want to know more about how a young police officer died near Fort Worth, Texas. Thirty-four-year-old Dwayne Freeto was stopped in his police cruiser on the side of the road after coming to the aid of a stranded motorist. Around 4 am., as Freeto's wife and 2 young children slept quietly at home, a drunk driver slammed into the rear of his car at 75 mph.

Gas TankBefore Freeto could be dragged out of his Crown Victoria, fuel from the crumpled gas tanked ignited and burned him to death. "He survived the wreck, there were people talking to him," says Mark Haney, the attorney who now represents the Freeto family in a negligence suit against the Ford Motor Company. "The medical examiner says there was no blunt force trauma, but there was soot in his lungs suggesting he was ingesting super heated air. There were eyewitnesses who tried to get him out of the car."

Unfortunately, Freeto isn't the first person to survive a rear-end collision in a Crown Victoria only to be killed by the fire that followed. Because the gas tank is located behind the rear axle, critics say the vehicles are more likely to catch fire in a high-speed rear-end collision.

"If Ford doesn't change what they are doing, this won't be the last case either. There are going be more," says Haney.

There are an estimated 5 million Crown Victoria vehicles on the roads in the US. Many are used in taxi fleets and hundreds of police departments use the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor model as squad cars. According to the Centre for Auto Safety, since 1992, more than 100 people have died in fires following rear-end collisions involving Ford Crown Victorias, including more than 30 police officers. Thousands of other Americans have been seriously burned.

Ford's Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car and Grand Marquis vehicles are built on what Ford calls its "Panther Platform". "Nobody else in America puts their tank in the crush zone of a vehicle—not since the 60's," says attorney Haney. "Everybody knows the best place for a gas tank is in front of the rear axle. That's where you get the most protection."

"It astounds me, I don't get it," says Haney. His firm-- Kobs, Haney & Hundley-- has recently filed a lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company, claiming Ford is guilty of negligence in the design of the vehicle. "It is not like this is a new design flaw that Ford is not aware of; in fact they have known about it for years. Ford has been litigated successfully around the country many times."

Ford says there is no way to guarantee against explosions. The Crown Victoria has a 5 star front-end crash rating from the National Safety Board, according to Ford and no vehicle design can eliminate the risk of fire from a high-speed rear end collision.

"This was an absolutely survivable accident," says Haney. "Officer Freeto never should have been burned to death. He should be holding his babies and raising his family today."

On behalf the Freeto family, Kobs, Haney & Hundley is suing Ford for gross negligence of gas tank design. According to documents filed, Haney alleges Ford offered an optional fire screen shield as equipment in its Crown Victoria Police Interceptor vehicle as early as October 2002. Haney argues that given what is known about rear-end crashes involving police officers, the fire suppression system should have been mandatory equipment. "If you have a vehicle that you know needs that, you have it perfected and you know that police officers are susceptible to having these high speed rear end incidents. You make it a mandatory safety option just like you would door locks. You don't make it an option."

The motto at Haney's firm is 'tough lawyers, caring people'. It's a good description of Haney's approach to being a lawyer. "I do this because I believe in it," says Haney, "and this case is something that never should have happened."

Mark Haney is a partner with Kobs, Haney & Hundley. He has been a practicing lawyer in Texas since 1987 and recognized as Texas Super Lawyer in 2007. He a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and the Association of American Justice.

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I bought an F-150 EcoBoost and traded my Hummer H2 in because they sold me on the idea the new ecoboost was vertually indestructable. After bringing it in several time over 5 don't remember all of them they insisted that there was nothing wrong. Then while driving home the engine threw a piston out the side of the engine. Now Ford says they will not replace it because the bumper I installed caused it to fail. BS I had trouble with it prior to tme engine failure and I even asked the service manager and re if changing the bumper would void my warrenty. The yboth said no. Now they are saying it isn't them but Ford that refuese to replace me engine. I need an attorney willing to handle this. By the way they have had several others that have failed as well.

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