Plaintiff's lawyer sues Ford for building not so "tough" truck

David Yates Aug. 15, 2007, 11:21am

Ford F250

Instead of asking the Ford dealer if installing a Hypertech power programmer III in his brand new F250 would void his warranty, Jeffrey Roebuck asked the parts seller.

When his engine blew a gasket, he learned the hard way that nifty after-market parts will void a vehicle's warranty. However, since Roebuck is a plaintiff's lawyer, he knows the American civil justice system, some would say, grants him the opportunity to make others pay for his mistake.

He is suing Ford for "fraudulently" marketing its trucks as being "Built Ford Tough."

Roebuck, represented by his firm's partner, Brett Thomas, filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Ford Motor Co., Philpott Motors (the dealer) and Hypertech Inc. with the Jefferson County District Court on Aug. 14.

The pair of attorneys accuses the defendants of acting with malice and are suing for exemplary and economic damages, mental anguish and attorney's fees.

According to the plaintiff's original petition, back in August 2006, Roebuck purchased a 2006 Ford F250 from Philpott Ford. Soon after, he purchased a Hypertech Power Programmer Ill.

"(Roebuck) purchased the programmer based upon representations made in Hypertech's advertising that the programmer would not void the manufacture's warranty and that the programmer would not damage the vehicles engine," the suit said.

According to the device manufacturer's Web site,the Hypertech Power Programmer is a chip that reads the vehicle's identification number (VIN) and then utilizes tuning specifications that are precisely tailored to the car or truck.

"But if you're ready to move beyond stock settings, Hypertech's Power Programmer also allows tuning customization to accommodate a variety of aftermarket changes," the site says.

A year later, the truck began showing signs of an engine problem. When the vehicle overheated and broke down, Roebuck had it towed to Philpott Ford for repairs.

"A service advisor from Philpott called (Roebuck) on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007, and informed him that Ford would not honor the vehicle's warranty because the programmer had been installed," the suit said, adding that the service advisor said the vehicle had blown head gaskets, coolers, and may need a new engine.

In his suit, Roebuck indicts Ford of manufacturing and selling trucks with defects and reliability problems, especially the diesel engine models.

"Ford marketed the vehicle as being as being 'Built Ford Tough' when Ford knew that the diesel engine had defects and reliability problems," the suit said. "Ford fraudulently marketed and sold the vehicle in question along with hundred's of thousands of other similar vehicles, knowing that consumers such as (Roebuck) would have serious engine problems."

Roebuck alleges Ford and Philpott conspired together to deny warranty claims "when a vehicle has had a programmer installed, because they are aware that their 6.0 liter diesel engine was poorly designed and engineered and are using the programmer issue as an (excuse) to deny warranty claims. Ford and Philpott have no evidence that the programmer installed on plaintiff's vehicle caused the current engine problem, but still deny the warranty claim because of programmer."

The suit goes on to fault Ford and the dealer with fraud, negligent misrepresentation and breach of warranty.

The suit also faults Hypertech for marketing its Power Programmer Ill as a performance upgrade that "would not void the vehicle's warranty or damage the vehicle's engine," and charges the company with committing fraud.

Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. B179-817

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