DETROIT -- A Canadian law firm on Tuesday said it had filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. over what it claims are defective door latches on about 400,000 of the automaker's popular pickup trucks and SUVs.
Class-action status is sought for the lawsuit, which was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, said Paul Miller of Will Barristers: Morin and Miller, who is a co-counsel on the case.
It will cost about $994 per four-door vehicle to replace the door latches, which could open in a side-impact crash or rollover accident, the law firm said.
Punitive damages of about $403 million are also being sought, according to the lawsuit.
A law firm in Mount Pleasant, S.C., is also planning to file a lawsuit against Ford to seek payment for the replacement of door latches on over four million vehicles in the United States.
Deaths and serious personal injuries have been reported due to the defective latches and are the subject of a number of lawsuits in the United States, according to Will Barristers: Morin and Miller.
Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said the door handles and latch assemblies fully comply with all government and industry standards.
"Vehicles from all manufacturers, on rare occasions, may experience a door opening during a crash," Vokes said.
Ford installed malfunctioning door latches in 1997-2000 model-year F-150, F-250 and Blackwood pickup trucks, and Expedition and Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicles, according to the lawsuit in Canada.
Internal Ford documents reveal that the automaker knew about the defect, the lawsuit said.
Ford engineers recommended in March 2000 that the vehicles be recalled to fix the defective door latches, according to the Canadian law firm. But Ford decided to cancel the recall a week later, it said.