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Circuit Court Backs Ford’s Refusal to Sell More Police Cars to Suing Sheriff

October 5, 2004

Ford can refuse to sell police cars to Florida law enforcement agencies that join a lawsuit against the automaker over fuel tank fires, a judge ruled on September 29. Circuit judge Robert Barron denied Okaloosa county sheriff Charlie Morris' request that he order Ford to resume selling cars to the department, the Associated Press reported. Ford has refused to sell any more Crown Victoria Police Interceptors to Morris since July 2003, a year after he sued. The suit reportedly claims the full-size, V-8-powered, four-door sedans have exploded in flames when struck from behind at high speed because of poor design, in some cases killing police officers. The AP report said Barron granted class-action status last month, permitting hundreds of Florida law enforcement agencies to join the lawsuit. No deadline for potential plaintiffs to join or opt out has been set. Barron said that case law establishes a company's right to refuse to do business with any customer. With Barron's ruling in hand, Ford also will refuse to sell the cars to any other agency that participates in the suit, company lawyer David Cannella told AP. "It's fundamentally illogical for Sheriff Morris to, on one hand, sue us and, on the other hand, seek the court to order (Ford) to sell him more vehicles," Cannella said. According to the Associated Press, one of Morris' attorneys, Don Barrett, has said the sheriff firmly believes the police interceptors are defective but he wants to buy new ones to replace aging cars because seeking other vehicles would be more costly. Since Ford refused to sell the police interceptors, Morris has bought Ford Explorers and may start buying Chevrolet Impalas, which meet Florida Sheriffs Association vehicle safety standards, Barrett said, according to the Associated Press report.
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