FORT WALTON BEACH, FL — Okaloosa County's sheriff says he will drop a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. over the safety of its police cruisers following an appellate court ruling that removed other Florida police agencies from the case.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that a trial judge was wrong when he made the suit a class action that would have covered state and local law enforcement agencies throughout Florida.
It may now be a moot point because Sheriff Charlie Morris says he wants out. The suit was one of a series across the nation that alleged Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors were prone to burst into flames when hit from behind.
"It was going nowhere, and I was dissatisfied with the counsel," Morris said. "I had a hard time getting information back on the lawsuit."
Morris said he also is happy with the Chevrolet Impalas his department has bought .
"They get better gas mileage than Crown Vics," he said.
Morris sued Ford in 2002 although none of his Crown Victorias were involved in one of the flaming crashes. Ford contends the vehicles are safe, attaining the highest possible rating in federal crash tests.
"We think the 1st District Court of Appeal made the correct ruling," said Ford lawyer Dave Cannella. "If Sheriff Morris wants to dismiss this lawsuit with prejudice, the 'no-sale' policy would no longer apply."
Circuit Judge G. Robert Barron had rejected a motion by Morris to force Ford to keep selling cars to his department. Morris said he made the request for financial reasons, but now finds the Chevrolets satisfactory.