Ford Recalls 600,000+ Explorers Over Dangerous, Defective Toe Link
The Ford Motor Company has once again issued a recall for a potentially life-threatening defect. Like many other Ford recalls, this one just about made page six. When it comes to critical defects that turn a trip to the store into a life or death situation, we believe that the information should be in 72 point font above the fold. After all, you deserve to know when your family is in danger.
Per the recall information posted by WTOC:
Ford Motor is recalling about 774,696 Ford Explorer vehicles because of a seized cross-axis ball joint that may cause a fractured rear suspension toe link.
Impacted vehicles may experience a clunk noise, unusual handling, or a misaligned rear wheel.
Fracture of a rear toe link significantly diminishes steering control, increasing the risk of a crash.
Owner notifications will be sent in August, according to the automaker.
Note that this information was disseminated in mid-July, but that owner notifications were not slated to be sent until the next month. In fact, according to MotorSafety.org, “Owners were set to receive a notification as early as August 23, 2021 [emphasis added].” This is the type of legal tapdancing for which Ford Motors has become notorious. The “public” notice allows the company to hide behind a blanket statement during a completely unnecessary delay. Worse, the bland language fails to underscore the serious danger that a fractured rear toe link poses to drivers.
At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, we know that big companies will spare no expense to defend a defect that affects hundreds of thousands of products. Our lawyers have gone up against Ford Motor Company in high-profile cases, securing verdicts that collectively total more than $100 million. In nearly every case, the cause of injury or death was a well-known defect that the company either waited too long to fix – or simply failed to issue a recall notice.
What is a rear toe link?
The rear toe link is a type of mechanical linkage that, like many moving parts, seems relatively innocuous at first glance. The part in question is technically referred to as an “adjustable rear suspension toe link,” which is more than we started with. The adjustable rear suspension toe “link” does just that– it connects the rear suspension to the vehicle frame and is intended to keep the rear tires properly aligned and (more significantly) on the ground. At the risk of sounding obvious, a vehicle without all four wheels on the ground is much more difficult to control.
A fractured or broken rear toe link in fact “significantly diminishes steering control” as the statement mentions. However, this is not the only outcome. According to MotorSafety.org, even a loose toe link “…may cause the vehicle to veer uncontrollably. An affected vehicle may start swerving from side to side, increasing the risk of colliding with other vehicles and oncoming traffic. This is very dangerous. In fact, the NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] cited that two of the nine complaints it received resulted in a crash.”
It is worth noting that the risks of a loose toe link were described by MotorSafety.org in a different recall that was also published in August 2021. This recall affects Cadillac SRXs manufactured between 2010 and 2016 as well as Saab 9-4Xs made in 2011 and 2012. Made by Ford Motor competitor General Motors, these vehicles suffer from the same problem.
How to know if your vehicle is affected by a recall
Luckily, the NHTSA maintains a public database of individual VINs and recalls that anyone can use to find out about recalls affecting their vehicle. The NHTSA’s Motor Vehicle Safety Defects and Recalls booklet says:
How Will I Be Notified If a Recall Is Ordered or Initiated?
Within a reasonable time after the determination of a safety defect or noncompliance, manufacturers must notify, by first-class mail, all registered owners and purchasers of the affected vehicles of the existence of the problem…
Manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment—particularly tires, car seats, and boosters—maintain lists of owners who have registered their products with the manufacturer. When product or equipment recalls are initiated, the manufacturer uses these lists to directly notify owners…
The NHTSA does not require the notifications to look a certain way. The only requirements are that the information above is included on the notice. With the proliferation of junk mail (both digital and physical), recall notices can be easy to miss. Additionally, we can see by the tepid announcement above that automakers tend not to go out of their way to ensure that this vital information is communicated effectively.
Missing a recall notification, aside from the risk to life and limb, does not necessarily mean that you have no recourse if the unthinkable happens. The timing gaps between discovery, notification, and repair or refund can play a large part in recovering damages caused by a defective product. In the notorious case of the Takata airbag recall, the scale of the problem was so massive that vehicle owners found it nearly impossible to find an available appointment to have the problem rectified.
The scale of the Ford Explorer recall is small in comparison to the number of vehicles affected by faulty Takata airbags, but the number of affected vehicles is still nearly three-quarters of a million. That makes for an awful lot of dangerous cars on the road. Worse, when vehicle handling is affected (as in this case), those vehicles become a danger to others on the road. Even if a driver is lucky enough to escape uninjured from a crash caused by a fractured toe link, there is a very real possibility of significant injury or death to others on the road.
Defective vehicles have very real consequences for owners and operators. Surviving a crash that should have killed you is a miracle, surviving a crash that resulted in the deaths of innocent lives through no fault of your own is a nightmare. Litigating vehicle defect cases can be complicated as large companies have deep pockets and legions of lawyers.
Harris Lowry Manton LLP has a proven track record of taking on these Goliaths – and winning. If you or your loved one was injured by one of these defective vehicles (or any other defective product), the experienced Atlanta and Savannah product liability attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP can help. Our compassionate counsel works hard to make sure your family has the resources it needs to recover from injuries and losses, and we stop at nothing to get you the compensation you deserve. To discuss your case with one of our attorneys, you can contact us to schedule a free, confidential appointment or call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847 or our Savannah office at 912-417-3774.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.