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Ford Motor Company's 15-Passenger Van Subject of Product Liability Lawsuit Filed by Northern California Families.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, LLP:

--Lawsuit Alleges That Dangerous Propensities of Ford's 15-Passenger Van and Enterprise Rent-a-Car's Failure to Warn Inexperienced Drivers Caused Rollover Accident Which Killed 5 Youth and Seriously Injured 9 Others

A complaint for damages was filed in Alameda Superior Court against Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company, Inc. on July 15, 2004 by the estates of five people who were killed and nine individuals who were seriously injured in a single rollover accident involving a Ford 15-passenger van on March 29, 2003. Plaintiffs allege strict product liability, negligence and breach of implied and express warranties against Ford Motor Company; and negligent entrustment of a vehicle as against Enterprise-Rent-A-Car Company, Inc. and co-defendants Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of San Francisco and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. They are represented by Brian J. Panish, Christine D. Spagnoli and Adam K. Shea with the Santa Monica, CA law firm of Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, LLP and Joseph J. Babich and Robert A. Buccola with the Sacramento, CA law firm of Dreyer, Babich, Buccola & Callaham. Safwat Demian vs. Ford Motor Company, Case No. HG04165692.

Prior to March 28, 2003, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car Company, Inc. (Enterprise) and Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of San Francisco (Enterprise San Francisco) were involved in renting a 2002 Ford Econoline E-350 15-passenger van to Hany Gerges, who was acting on behalf of St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church in Hayward, CA. Mr. Gerges rented the Ford van, along with two others, for the purpose of transporting a group of young adults from affiliated Coptic churches in the Sacramento, San Jose and Monterey, CA area to a weekend spiritual and prayer retreat at St. Anthony Monastery in Yermo, CA.

On March 28, 2003, fourteen young adults, ages 17-26, met at St. Antonius Coptic Church, got into the 2002 Ford Econoline E-350 15-passenger van rented from Enterprise and were en route to the religious retreat. At approximately 2:53 AM on March 29th, the van was traveling northbound on Interstate 15 in the number one lane near Yermo. As it approached a right curvature of the road, the driver, Peter Demian, experienced a loss of control. The van rolled over several times and came to rest in the median area of the freeway. Only 20-minutes from their destination, van occupants Simone Gamal Botros, Mary Safwat Demian, Dalal Hanalla, Iman Farid Hanalla and Christine Youssef sustained fatal injuries. The surviving van occupants, among them, Victoria Brown, Nardeen Ealla Maximous, Lucy Saeed, Raymond Souweha, Irene Loris Yousef and Maryam Yousef, all sustained serious injuries.

Prior to Plaintiffs' accident, Ford and Enterprise were on notice of the dangerous propensities of Ford's 15-passenger vans, including its Econoline E-350. On April 9, 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a "Consumer Advisory" warning that 15-passenger vans transporting 10 or more occupants had a rollover rate in single vehicle crashes that was nearly 3 times the rate of those that were lightly loaded; and that 15-passenger vans needed to be driven by experienced drivers. On April 15, 2002, NHTSA issued a repeat consumer advisory about 15-passenger van rollover risks.

On November 1, 2002 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a public recommendation to the Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company which noted that Ford's 15-passenger vans, when occupied by 10 to 15 passengers, had a rollover ratio of 85.0 percent, compared with a ratio of 28.3 percent for vans with fewer than 5 occupants. The NTSB informed Ford that: "Fully loading or nearly loading a 15-passenger van causes the center of gravity to move rearward and upward, which increases the vehicle's rollover propensity and could increase the potential for driver loss of control in emergency maneuvers."

Plaintiffs allege that Ford Econoline E-350 vans contain a number of design and manufacturing defects, such as a high center of gravity, inadequately designed wheel base and a propensity to roll over in foreseeable driving operations; and that these vans did not have adequate crash protection, including roof crush protection. They contend that Ford, Enterprise and Enterprise San Francisco had all been put on notice by the NTSB and NHTSA as to the high risk to consumers and users of these vans, and by the mounting number of lawsuits filed against them because the Ford Econoline E-350 vans rolled over, causing death and serious injuries.

"My sister Mary was one year away from completing her degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of California at Davis when she was killed in a Ford 15-passenger van single rollover accident just 20-minutes away from her destination," said Dalia Demian, age 28 and a resident of Sacramento, CA. "It had to have been a terrifying way for her and her four friends to die. We suffer her absence each and every day, and still can't believe that such a vibrant, intelligent young woman is gone from us. Mary cared deeply about her family and her church, and her death has been especially hard for my sister Riham, who is handicapped and cannot understand or comprehend why Mary is no longer here.

"What shocks and hurts the most," added Ms. Demian, "is that Ford Motor Company knew that its 15-passenger vans were dangerous, but never did anything to make them safe and that Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company knew that Ford's 15-passenger vans were unstable, but failed to warn its customers that special driving skills were required. In Mary Demian's name, and in the name of all the victims who have paid the price for riding in a Ford 15-passenger van and the families who continue to suffer, I will continue to speak out until the proper steps are taken on all fronts to make these vans roadworthy."

"How many lives must be sacrificed before Ford Motor Company takes responsibility for putting 15-passenger vans on America's roadways and around the world that are dangerous and defective?" asked Christine D. Spagnoli. "How many accident survivors must endure a lifetime of nightmares before Ford Motor Company takes accountability for placing a defective product in the marketplace? How can Enterprise Rent-A-Car knowingly rent Ford 15-passenger vans to its customers without giving them any warnings whatsoever about how easily these vans can roll over under ordinary and expected driving conditions?

"The answer is greed," stated Ms. Spagnoli. "Ford has taken no corrective measures because it has determined that such actions would decrease the company's profitability with its skewed logic dictating that taking corrective steps would be too costly when compared to litigating lawsuits filed by Ford 15-passenger van accident victims. Enterprise Rent-A-Car was also motivated by greed because it was in a superior position to warn its customers about the dangers of Ford's Econoline E-350 van, but failed to do so, placing its business relationship with Ford above public safety."

"The public needs to know that Ford's 2002 Econoline E-350 15-passenger van is a death trap waiting to happen," said Brian J. Panish, "especially when driven by inexperienced drivers and occupied by five or more passengers. We hope that this lawsuit will serve to remind consumers of the very real risk of danger that comes with buying or renting a Ford 15-passenger van, and that until both companies take more proactive steps to protect consumers, no one who rides in a Ford 15-passenger van is really safe."

"Time after time," said Joseph J. Babich, "Ford Motor Company and Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company have traded on the lives of innocent people even though they are both in a superior position to protect consumers by warning them of the high propensity of Ford's 15-passenger vans to rollover. The executives of these companies need to meet our clients face-to-face and look at the real human pathos that they have created. Maybe then they can begin to do the right thing by their global public."

Editor's Note:

Plaintiffs are represented by Brian J. Panish, Christine D. Spagnoli and Adam K. Shea with the Santa Monica, CA. law firm of Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, LLP (; and Joseph J. Babich and Robert A. Buccola with the Sacramento, CA law firm of Dreyer, Babich, Buccola & Callaham (; Tel: 916.920.2111. Greene Broillet won a $4.9 billion jury verdict in Anderson v. General Motors, which was the highest product liability verdict in US history.

Defendant Ford Motor Company is based in Dearborn, MI and is represented by its Vice President and General Counsel, Dennis E. Ross; Tel: 313.322.3000.

Defendant Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company, Inc. is a St. Louis, MO. corporation; Tel: 314.512.5000. It is privately held and has several branches in the Oakland, CA. metropolitan area, including a branch at 25900 Mission Boulevard, Hayward, CA; Tel: 510.537.4100 which rented the 2002 Ford Econoline E-350 van to the Plaintiffs and which has a principle office located in Gardena, CA.; Tel: 310 327 7800.

Defendant Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of San Francisco dba as Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a Nevada corporation and has its corporate headquarters in San Leandro, CA.; Tel: 510.351.2810, and has branch offices in the Oakland metropolitan area, including Concord, CA; Tel: 925.688.8900.
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Date:Aug 3, 2004
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