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Burned Officer Settles Case Against Ford

May 18, 2004 | Jason Schechterle, the Phoenix police officer severely burned in March 2001 when his patrol car exploded, has reached a settlement agreement with Ford Motor Co., a company spokeswoman said.

The case is set for trial June 8. Schechterle was badly injured when his police cruiser was struck by a speeding taxi. He suffered disfiguring burns to his hands and face.

He filed a product liability suit in February 2003 against Ford, contending that the design used in the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor placing the fuel tank behind the rear axle was defective.

Schechterle accused the carmaker of failing to provide adequate warning about the model's dangers, which it knew about for a long time.

Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes declined to discuss details of the settlement and Schechterle's attorney also declined comment Monday.

Vokes told the East Valley Tribune that the model is safe and has the highest crash test rating from the federal government.

She added that the carmaker settles the great majority of lawsuits filed against the company.

Ford settled lawsuits in May 2002 with the families of state Department of Public Safety officers Floyd "Skip" Fink of Chandler and Juan Cruz of Tucson, who died in fiery, rear-impact crashes in their Crown Victorias.

Chandler Officer Robert Nielsen burned to death June 12, 2002, when a car turned in front of his cruiser, and the Crown Victoria slammed into a traffic light pole and burst into flames.

"We're always concerned when any of our customers is involved in an accident," Vokes said, "and we always work for a settlement that is fair to the customer and the stockholders in the company."

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