Judge Dismisses Ford Power Steering Lawsuit

Ford power steering lawsuit alleges electric power-assisted steering systems are defective.

Posted in News

— A Ford power steering lawsuit is over after a federal judge ruled in favor of Ford and said the plaintiffs didn't have a case. According to the lawsuit, the Ford Fusion and Ford Focus have defective electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) systems that cause drivers to lose power steering.

The plaintiffs had a tough time with the lawsuit because the judge had already denied class-action certification and at one point dismissed the lawsuit, but left the possibility open for the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.

Plaintiff William Philips says he wouldn't have purchased his Ford Fusion, or he wouldn't have paid as much as he did, if Ford would have admitted problems existed with the power steering system.

The plaintiff says he made numerous complaints to Ford about the alleged steering problems and was told in 2013 it would cost about $2,000 to fix the problems by replacing the EPAS system. Philips claims he declined to repair the car at the time, then in 2015 he received a recall notice to have the EPAS system replaced.

The plaintiffs originally claimed the power steering systems have multiple problems, including misaligned ribbon cable pins, defects in the contact plating, defects in the sensors and defects in the gear assemblies.

However, the plaintiffs changed their stance to argue the EPAS systems in 2010-2012 Fusion vehicles and 2012-2014 Focus vehicles are defective because the EPAS systems contain unreliable electro-mechanical relays.

Ford began to use electro-mechanical relays in EPAS systems in 2009 that includes two electro-mechanical relays: a "link relay" and a "star point" relay. The link relay controls power to the EPAS system, and the star point relay controls power to the steering motor.

These relays allegedly experience “faults,” meaning the circuits open and power is cut off at unexpected times. When a fault occurs, power steering is cut off and the vehicle reverts to manual steering. These faults are indicated by diagnostic trouble code B43 that indicates a fault in the link relay, and code B3A that indicates a fault in the star point relay.

The lawsuit alleges Ford knew as early as 2007 that electro-mechanical relays shouldn't have been used in EPAS systems. According to the lawsuit, Ford emails suggest that Ford employees believed that electro-mechanical relays were subject to issues such as thermal expansion and sensitivity to variations in manufacturing.

Other internal Ford emails suggest that Ford hoped to “remove electro-mechanical relays out of EPS products.” However, the plaintiffs claim Ford decided not to change the design to omit electro-mechanical relays because of the cost.

The plaintiffs say Ford continually diagnosed and assessed relay problems and began to make some changes to the EPAS systems in 2011, but none of these changes addressed the ultimate cause of the EPAS system’s unusually high failure rates: the unreliable electro-mechanical relays.

Ford also allegedly received an unusual number of complaints regarding sudden failures of power steering systems. At the time, Ford concluded the main cause was the fact that “ribbon cables” in the EPAS systems were sometimes damaged during assembly.

After the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into reports of power steering failures in Fusion vehicles, Ford began a recall of certain cars based on the ribbon-cable issues. However, according to plaintiffs, this recall does not address their concerns because even after replacement, the EPAS systems are still defective because they use unreliable electro-mechanical relays.

Ford told the judge the plaintiffs have no admissible evidence to prove damages for any of their claims and all three individual plaintiffs’ claims are empty because their EPAS systems were replaced. Ford also argued the plaintiffs failed to produce evidence showing the alleged defect has caused or will cause their EPAS systems to fail.

Finally, Ford says the plaintiffs have not produced any evidence that Ford breached a duty to disclose a material fact for the purposes of plaintiffs’ fraudulent concealment claims.

The judge said after class-action certification was denied, the plaintiffs made no attempt to defend their claims. Additionally, if the plaintiffs had submitted any evidence of damages, the court likely would have denied Ford’s motion for summary judgment. Instead, the judge ruled in favor of Ford by saying without proof of damages, the lawsuit is without merit and is dismissed.