An evaporator lawsuit

By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine

In California, plaintiff Kerry O’Shea has brought suit against Ford Motor Company, alleging that the company built and sold vehicles that  “are defective because defendant used an excessive amount of Nocolok flux in the design, manufacture and assembly of the air conditioner system evaporator cores, thereby creating an unreasonable health and safety risk …”

Mr. O’Shea’s attorneys have filed for the case to become a class action on behalf of owners of all Ford vehicles with affected evaporators. That is the matter presently before the court, and if the class is certified it would encompass approximately 3.5 million vehicles from 2000 through 2010 model years and cover almost every model line Ford sells in the U.S.

The eight-count lawsuit, filed in October, 2010, alleges that as early as 2001 Ford was aware of a condition in which white flakes would be blown from dash vents after a short period of A/C use. Several TSBs have been issued on the matter acknowledging “excessive amounts of brazing flux used in manufacturing” to be the source of the flakes.

According to the process described in the court document, the evaporators in question are plate-and-fin construction. The various components are welded using controlled atmosphere brazing (CAB).  Prior to brazing, a gap filler made of the flux (a fine white powder) and deionized water, is applied to joints and seams. The CAB process provides the final bonding and sealing. The Nocolok flux used in the process is made by Solvay corporation.

The plaintiff states that Ford knowingly used excessive flux to assure proper internal sealing and that the resultant flakes are extremely hazardous to human health. The suit cites Sovay’s and Ford’s MSDS entries, plus proper-use instructions and safety notes in various TSBs.

According to the complaint, “exposure to and inhalation of the flux is extremely dangerous and can result in the development of several diseases and conditions including, but not necessarily limited to, a bone disease called osteofluorosis, chronic bronchitis, chronic pulmonary inflammation, chemical pneumonitis, as well as irritated mucous membranes, cough, sore throat, and nose bleeds.”

In its response to the suit, Ford denied all the substantial allegations by Mr. O’Shea and also stated its doubt “that any class or subclass can be appropriately certified in this case” because, among other reasons, not every vehicle experienced the problem and in other cases the corrections offered in the TSBs solved the problem.

This will be an interesting case to watch. Various (standard) motions to dismiss the case were denied, and a hearing on the motion for class certification will be held on July 25.


About macsworldwide

Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Founded in 1981, MACS is the leading non-profit trade association for the mobile air conditioning, heating and engine cooling system segment of the automotive aftermarket. Since 1991, MACS has assisted more than 600,000 technicians to comply with the 1990 U.S. EPA Clean Air Act requirements for certification in refrigerant recovery and recycling to protect the environment. The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide’s mission is clear and focused--as the recognized global authority on mobile air conditioning and heat transfer industry issues.
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