Disgruntled Ford Kuga SUV owners, whose vehicles have burst into flames in South Africa, have united with the family of the man who burned to death in one of the vehicles to file a class-action lawsuit against the car manufacturer.
The news of the class action was announced by the siblings of the deceased – Reshall Jimmy – Renisha and Kaveen and their attorney, Rod Montano, in Pretoria on Tuesday following Ford’s announcement of a safety recall of the Kuga 1.6-litre model.
Jimmy died in December 2015, when his Kuga burst into flames in Wilderness.
More than 40 of the vehicles caught fire in the past year. Ford claimed the death was a “seperate, unique incident”.
Kaveen said the family would like to see Ford taking full responsibility for what happened.
“They need to stop making a mockery of my brother’s death.”
He said they want to get to the bottom of what caused the fire and for Ford to apologise to their mother.
Forensic investigator David Klatzow accused the company of “shopping” for forensic reports to prove its case in Jimmy’s death.
He claimed Ford’s report into the cause of the fire was incorrect as it stated the fire started at the back of the vehicle, and not in the front as mentioned by witnesses.
“Two eye witnesses saw the fire in the front of the vehicle, under the dashboard. “There is also video footage taken by a passerby, clearly showing the fire in the front of the vehicle. They [Ford] are shopping for reports that suit them.
“They need to come clean on what is in the report and why they don’t like it. Ford has the correct report and are very coy in releasing it,” he said over Skype at the briefing.
He said Ford’s claim that investigators and the family were uncooperative in the case were false.
“They made a statement under oath that is lacking truth. We met with Ford SA CEO Jeff Nemeth in December. We said that we would give all information on condition they also shared photographs of the burned vehicle and the wiring diagram of the Kuga. But they refused. Sharing is a two-way street.”
Mantono said he had initially been instructed by the Jimmy family and the goal was to assist the investigation by the South African Police Service in George into the inquest relating to Reshall’s death.
“As the matters progressed, with the epidemic of Ford fires that have occurred, we’ve come into contact with other Ford fire victims,” Mantono said.
“I am also currently instructed to act on behalf of other families in bringing a class action against Ford.”
He said on Monday, 31 claims against Ford were handed to the National Consumer Commission.
“We are in the process of obtaining the remaining few victims. The difficulty we had over the December period is getting in contact with those persons. Consultations are ongoing and we do hope that we will act on behalf of all Ford Kuga fire victims,” said Montano.
He said civil claims for the losses suffered will also be pursued.
– Additional reporting by African News Agency